When I first flipped through Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero, I had significant difficulty choosing which recipe to try first. From the sheer volume of posts regarding this cookbook, it’s quite clear that I’m slowly making progress, and loving every delicious morsel. One recipe that was initially tagged as a “hm. that’s interesting” recipe was Chickpea Pastel de Choclo. Pastel de Choclo is a Chilean shepherd’s pie, but with a pureed fresh corn topping instead of the mashed potatoes. This particular version uses crumbled tempeh or chickpeas instead of meat, and retains all other flavours of the original.
What made me hesitant about this dish at first was that it includes raisins, green olives, and corn. Three ingredients that I go out of my way to avoid. Put them together? Apocalypse now, baby! Buoyed by all the other successes of Viva Vegan!, I put my faith in Terry one Saturday and tried it out. This very well be my favourite dish of the cookbook thus far! The raisins and olives marry together in a subtly sweet/salty combo that is nothing like I’ve ever tasted before. The other seasonings of oregano, cumin, and paprika round out the stew filling, making the filling utterly irresistible – a definite repeat by itself! I don’t know what sort of magic happens when these ingredients combine in the pot, but it has encouraged me to not be so hasty on judging the demure raisin.
The other real surprise of the dish is the corn topping. I used frozen corn making the topping method that much easier. Thawed kernels are pureed with garlic, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and a heavy cream. I used Almond Breeze, and it worked wonderfully. After the food processor works its magic, you’re left with something that looks like gruel. A quick simmer to thicken the topping (similar to Burmese Tofu), the addition of fresh basil, and it’s ready to pour over the filling. The fresh basil adds such punch to the pie as a whole; it complements the raisin/olive filling wonderfully. The pureed corn topping gets a nice browned crunch layer once baked – something I could never achieve with mashed potatoes. Overall, this dish was a pleasant surprise, and a nice departure from the spicy Latin dishes one comes to expect. It opened my eyes to new flavour combinations, and once again opened my kitchen to the glorious cuisine of Chile. I was greatly rewarded with my choice to expand my culinary horizons – I will remember this deliciousness the next time I see an ingredient list that makes me go “ick”!
The recipe can be found in Viva Vegan! on pg. 144-145, or on Google Book Preview here.