Lance is one of those rare individuals who does not like meat pies. I blame the horrible, gristle-filled soggy-pastried reheated things that often passed for pies when we were younger. But it’s something he’s carried with him in life and now he doesn’t like pies. He’ll quite happily eat fresh homemade pies with their delicious chunks of meat and flaky buttery pastry if we have dinner at someone elses’ house and that’s what is served, but he still ‘doesn’t like pies’. So I don’t cook pie. Except the other day, I cooked this pie.
So, how do you cook a pie for someone who doesn’t like pie? Step one. Don’t tell them you’re making pie. Step two. Make this pie.
This isn’t a pie in a traditional sense, as the ‘pastry’ contains no flour and isn’t really ‘pastry’ as we know it. So before you start imagining said buttery flaky goodness…stop. Instead, the ‘pastry’ part of this pie is made out of corn puree. When I read this recipe, I knew it was something I wanted to try. I love corn and was so intrigued by how this would turn out, that I made it a few days later. This is from one of my swag of Christmas cookbooks A Taste of Old Cuba, a book chosen to satisfy my obsession with Cuban food which is somewhat hard to indulge out in Perth. The filling is a chicken and tomato base, with flavours rounded out by the briny deliciousness of olives and capers, and the sweetness of prunes. I changed a few things in the making of it, but just barely.
The end result was remarkable. The ‘pastry’ puffs nicely in an almost cake-y way, with the delicious sweetness of corn and a sort of crisp top layer. The flavours of the filling are all perfectly balanced and so entirely comforting.
Cuban Chicken Pie
(barely adapted from A Taste of Old Cuba)
8 tbsps butter (plus extra for greasing pie dish)
1 tbsp sugar
3 tsps salt
½ cup hot water
12 pitted prunes, cut into quarters
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1brown onion, diced
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tsp pepper
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
½ cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
1 tbsp capers
4 egg yolks
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
¼ cup slivered almonds
Puree corn kernels until smooth in a blender or food processor. Melt the butter in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the corn puree, sugar and 1 tsp of the salt. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the corn thickens, and pulls away easily from the pan, similar to the way it does when you cook polenta. Set it aside to cool.
Soak the prunes in the hot water for 15 minutes.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium and cook the onion in the remaining 2 tsps salt until soft and translucent, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pepper, chicken, olives and capers and the prunes and their soaking liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to combine everything fully. Turn off the heat.
Preheat your oven to 170C. Grease a casserole dish with butter.
Spread just over half of the corn mixture on the bottom of the casserole dish, spreading evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Very gently pour the chicken mixture on top, then lay the boiled egg slices on top. Spread the remaining corn mixture over the top and smooth.
Bake for 45 minutes, the top should be crisp and brown. Sprinkle the almonds on top and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the almonds are toasted.