I have a rule with recipes – I look at the image, and if it makes me salivate and crave to have a bite of what’s pictured, even on a full stomach – then I know it will be a hit! This is exactly the type of recipe that not only gives me wild fantasies of how delicious it is – but makes me eager to try asap!
Simply put, this is a Chilean dish very similar to shepherd’s pie. Typically, this dish has big juicy chunks of beef, but we find eggplant is the best substitute as it doesn’t have much flavor of its own and carries all the flavors of the dish while still retaining its shape. This is fantastic served with a green salad dressed with our lemon and cumin vinaigrette.
So, to make the recipe you’ll need:
FOR THE PASTEL DE CHOCLO:
1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
9 ounces Button mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeño, finely diced (seeds removed for a milder version)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste (concentrated purée)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4.5 ounces canned or fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
7 ounces firm tofu, diced or crumbled
4.5 ounces black olives, halved
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
2 1/2 cups soy milk
9 ounces vegan butter
13 ounces creamed corn
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
8 ounces frozen corn kernels
5.5 ounces fine polenta (cornmeal)
Sea salt flakes
FOR THE LEMON AND CUMIN VINAIGRETTE:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
To Make the Pastel de Choclo:
Coat the bottom of a large ovenproof frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook for 3–4 minutes until soft and slightly golden.
Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and add another swig of oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3–4 minutes until golden. Add the mushroom to the bowl with the eggplant.
Add another swig of oil to the pan and cook the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and bell pepper with a large pinch of salt. Cook for 3–4 minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste, cumin seeds, and oregano and cook for a further 1 minute over low heat.
Return the eggplant and mushroom to the pan and add the tomato, red wine vinegar, tofu, olives, paprika, soy sauce, and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Remove from the heat and throw it all back into the bowl.
Rinse out the pan because you’re going to be building the dish in there.
Heat the soy milk and butter in a medium-sized saucepan until it comes to a slow simmer. Add the creamed corn, nutritional yeast (if using), and frozen corn. Stir to combine. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream and whisk until it’s all incorporated. The mixture will become very thick so you’ll need to swap your whisk for a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to as low as possible and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have a bit of vegan cheese lying around, chuck it in at this stage and stir until melted through.
Preheat the oven to 340°F. Rub the base and side of the frying pan you’ve been using with a little olive oil.
Scoop about 1/3 of the corn mixture into the bottom of the pan and spread out to cover the entire base of the pan. It will be a bit sticky so it’s going to be easier if you wet your hands first and then press it down using flat fingers. You can also use a flat spoon.
Pour over the filling and spread out so that the base is completely covered and the top is flat. Now, finish off with the rest of the corn mix and spread out evenly so there is no filling to be seen.
Bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes until the top is starting to turn golden and crunchy-looking. Don’t let it get too dark though or it will dry out.
Remove from the oven and set aside for about 5 minutes, to allow the crust to firm up a little. Sprinkle over some sea salt flakes before serving.
To Make the Lemon and Cumin Vinaigrette:
Place the lemon juice, cumin seeds, agave syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender or jug.
With the motor set to low or whisking by hand, slowly drizzle in the oil until well combined and emulsified.
Recipes excerpted with permission from Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, published by Hardie Grant Books March 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover. Smith & Daughters is an award-winning vegan restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, twice voted Time Out People’s Choice Restaurant of the Year (2016 and 2014). https://www.amazon.com/Smith-Daughters-Cookbook-Happens-Vegan/dp/1743792077/?tag=onegrepla-20
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