As my very first post I’ve decided to start with one of the most typical dishes from my home country, Chile. Chilean corn pie (Pastel de Choclo) is usually a rich mix of ground beef and onions, chicken, hard boiled eggs and black olives covered with a layer of butter and milk mashed corn served in a hot clay bowl or plate. Pop that into the oven until it’s crispy and golden and you can taste a bit of Chilean paradise.
For my vegan version I’ve replaced the ground beef with some lentils and the chicken with some pan fried tofu slices. No replacement for the hard boiled eggs, though, but if you’re missing them I think some cauliflower chunks should work just fine. And of course all dairy products have been replaced with vegan alternatives.
- 1 1/2 cup of brown lentils washed and soaked for at least one hour (technically not needed because you can cook lentils right away unlike other legumes, but I like to do this to ensure that these grains are clean).
- 1 large brown onion (white onion should work too) finely chopped.
- 1 block of tofu (pressed overnight to remove excess water), sliced (thickness to taste).
- 1 cup of black olives (Spanish are good but if you are in Chile – or can find them in your country -use some Azapa olives… yum!!!).
- 6-8 corns on the cob (quantity depending on the size).
- 1 cup of unsweetened soy or almond milk.
- Vegan butter, coconut oil and/or olive oil.
- Light soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar.
- Spices: salt, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, basil, rosemary, sugar (ideally unrefined – coconut sugar will do for the tofu part).
- Optional: cauliflower chunks and nutritional yeast.
- For serving: individual size clay bowls/plates. I used a medium size ceramic plate. You can use anything as long as it doesn’t break in the oven and is non-stick.
- Lentils: after soaking lentils in water, drain and rinse them. Put them in a pot and pour water until covered. Bring them to a boil and then simmer at medium heat half covered. Check them after 10-20 minutes. They should be soft enough to chew, but not too soft to lose their shape. Remember that we’ll also fry them and bake them. In a separate large pot, throw a splash (1-2 tablespoons) of oil and fry the onion until translucent. Add the cooked lentils and fry for 5-10 minutes. During this time add a pinch of cumin, cayenne pepper, rosemary, salt and black pepper to taste. Remove from the stove and set aside.
- Tofu: (after overnight pressing, removing excess water and sliced) in a hot pan splash some soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar (I like to do both); one teaspoon of each, more or less. While heating up add some sugar (coconut sugar works well here, just a tea spoon should do). Once the sugar has mixed in well place the tofu slices evenly distributed over the pan. Cook for 10 minutes turning it over half way to cook both sides. Remove from stove and set aside.
- Corn Layer: Clean the corns and remove all grains from the cob with a knife. Process in a food processor or high speed blender and set aside. In a large pot heat up 1 tea spoon of vegan butter and 1 table spoon of oil. Add the corn paste and mix. The paste will start to thicken. Slowly add the milk, a pinch of salt, 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and basil to taste. You should cook this for about 20-25 minutes at medium heat, always stirring. (Optional: add 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast for thickening). Beware that the mix will start bubbling and some hot corn mix will pop everywhere. Once thick and heavy remove from stove and set aside.
- Plating: (Picture above for reference) Grease up individual plates with some coconut oil (or use nothing if you have a non-stick plate). Fill half of the plate with the lentil mix. Add a few tofu slices and olives (Optional: add a few raw or steamed cauliflowers). Cover everything with an even layer of the corn mix. Sprinkle some sugar on top. Put the plate in the pre-heated oven until the sugar caramelizes and the corn layer is crispy and golden (if your oven has a grill, use it!).
Serve hot in the clay pot, or if using a large casserole dish, scoop a piece and place in a plate. In the featured picture, Vegan Corn Pie garnished with some celery sticks, roasted red pepper hummus, and roasted garlic and black olive hummus.