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Pastel de Choclo — Baked Corn Cake
Pastel de Choclo — Baked Corn Cake
Peruvian
Side
Over 2 hours
Vegetables/vegetarian
Medium
Serves
4

This pastel de choclo recipe by Martin Morales shows off one of the fabulous varieties of maize available in his native Peru: “Edith Schneider is a wonderful Peruvian cook and a good friend of ours. I first ate this dish at her home and was so bowled over by it, I persuaded her to let me put it on the menu. It has become one of the most popular vegetarian dishes we serve.”

Recipe courtesy of
Ingredients
  • 500g choclo kernels (see below), corn-on-the-cob kernels or tinned sweetcorn
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 65g butter, softened
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Olive oil, for greasing
  • 100g Fresh Cheese (see below) or feta, cut into small cubes

Fresh Cheese

  • 2.5l full-fat milk, or raw if you can get your hands on it
  • 1 tbsp
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
Method
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Method
  1. If making the fresh cheese, put the milk in a saucepan with the salt. Bring to the boil and immediately turn down the heat as low as possible. Add the cider vinegar or lemon juice and start stirring – the milk will start separating into curds and whey. Keep stirring and if it looks as though it needs a bit more help to separate, add another tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Line a sieve or colander with a double layer of muslin or cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Strain the separated milk through the muslin and leave to stand for around 10 minutes. Bring the sides of the cloth together and squeeze very gently. The curds should have formed a solid mass of cheese. The cheese is ready to eat from this point onwards. If you would like a firmer, drier texture, you can wrap it up in the cloth and sit it in the fridge with a weight of some sort over it for around an hour. The cheese will be fine in the fridge for 10–15 days. Makes 250–300g.
  2. Preheat the oven to 120°C (gas mark 1/2).
  3. First cook the choclo kernels. Put them in a saucepan, cover generously with water and the salt and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes until softened. Drain and set aside.
  4. If you are using tinned sweetcorn there is no need to cook it at this stage.
  5. Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a food processor or blender with the corn and blitz to a rough purée. Tip the blended mixture into a large bowl and stir in the butter, cornflour, baking powder and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Whisk the egg whites until they’re quite dry and have reached the stiff peak stage. Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the mixture until completely incorporated, keeping as much air in the mix as possible. A metal spoon is the best thing to use here.
  7. Use some olive oil to grease a medium-sized casserole dish or a 20 x 20cm baking tin. Spread the corn batter over the base of the casserole dish or tin with a spatula or palette knife. Sprinkle over the cubes of cheese and push them into the mixture so they are almost completely covered by the batter. 
  8. Place in the preheated oven and cook slowly for 2 hours. Remove the dish or tin from the oven, carefully empty out into a non-stick baking tray and return to the oven. Turn the temperature up to 150°C (gas mark 2) and cook for a further 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before cutting into thick slices and serving.

VARIATION

Although we prefer to bake this savoury vegetarian corn cake with added cheese, it is perhaps more common in Peru to use the corn mixture as a topping, often with a kind of Peruvian meat ragù. So if you’d like to give your shepherd’s pie a bit of a Peruvian makeover, flavour up your sauce with a dash of cumin, some chillies, garlic and a few spoonfuls of tomato purée, add a few chopped raisins and olives and then cover with the corn cake batter. Then simply bake for about 1 hour in an oven preheated to 160ºC (gas mark 3).

Notes

Choclo is a large white variety of maize. The kernels have a creamy texture and the flavour is less sweet than the sweetcorn available in the UK. It can be boiled and eaten on the cob or sliced and added to stews and soups, puréed and used in tamales and corn cakes, or air-dried and ground into flour or meal and used in puddings. If you can’t find it, you can substitute regular sweetcorn in all of the savoury dishes.

Queso Fresco (fresh cheese), also called ‘farmer’s cheese’, this is a creamy and firm mild-tasting cheese. It has a slight hint of citrus and it’s a bit like feta but less salty. It keeps its shape well when used in cooking and while it does soften, it won’t melt. We use it interchangeably with feta, but it’s very quick to make so well worth trying.

The Pass was created to help the many people now struggling to feed themselves and their families as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. If you like or use this recipe, please consider making a small donation to Hospitality Action to help those whose livelihoods have all but disappeared.

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