This is a Chilean version of shepherd’s pie, using corn instead of potato for the filling and a mixture of sweet and savory ingredients that can be likened to a Chilean empanada filling (pino). In a shallow earthen dish, like a Spaniard cazuela, a layer of ground beef is topped with shredded chicken, raisins, black olives and hard-boiled eggs, then topped with a thick corn batter, sprinkled with sugar and baked. The pureed filling takes on a crunchy sweetness that enhances the salty/sweet combination of the ingredients.

One place to eat pastel de choclo in its natural state (meaning a locally made terracotta pot) is Pomaire, 65 km west of Santiago, a village famous for its ceramics and other handicrafts. The pie, however, is found all over Chile and is considered a national dish. Food historians claim that pastel de choclo originated in Peru, but this does not affect its Chilean identity and popularity. Traditionally cooked in rural kitchens and popular at parties, it is thought to have spread to cities with the campesinos who, at the beginning of the 20th century, emigrated in large numbers from the heartland of agriculture to find work in new industries.

Choclo is the Andean variety of corn, which is white and not particularly sweet, but you can substitute fresh or frozen sweet corn.

Ingredients

* For 6 persons

Filling

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 680g/1lb 8oz ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded, or use any leftover chicken meat
  • 75g/2 ½ oz raisins
  • 75g/2 ½ oz black olives, pitted and sliced
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Trim

  • 500g/1lb 2oz corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 180 ml/6 fl oz whole milk or cream
  • 30g/1oz butter
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/thermostat 6.
  2. Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until soft and translucent. Add beef, cumin, paprika and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until browned.
  3. Put the meat sauce in a baking dish or skillet. Scatter the chicken, raisins, olives and eggs on top and set aside while you prepare the filling.
  4. Mix the corn kernels with the milk or cream, leaving a few large chunks for texture.
  5. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the mashed corn with a teaspoon of salt. Simmer and stir for 5 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.
  6. Cover the meat with the corn, sprinkle the top with a teaspoon of sugar and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is bubbling and golden brown; If you want to make the filling even crispier, put it under the broiler for a few minutes.
  7. Let the tart rest for a few minutes before serving.

More information

For more South American recipes, check out Ben Box’s book:

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