Friday 6 July 2007

Mexicale Pie - an old favourite

This year I thought a lot about what to cook for Independence Day (Wednesday 4 July) because my friend Heather was coming to dinner! But I was stumped. I have had a few discussions about what is a quintessentially American dish. Quite a few people said burger and fries, but I didn't think this was a meal I would serve to a friend. Yarrow wisely advised that cuisines often are regional rather than national in the USA, reflecting the country's diversity.

When I think USA, I think of New World food such as turkey, sweet potato, corn, cranberries. I think of regional food like burritos in Texas, raw food in Los Angelos, soup in sourdough bread bowls in San Francisco, pizza in New York, gumbo in New Orleans. I think of food I don’t usually eat like hot dogs, pretzels, and grits. I think that America, much like Australia, has absorbed many cuisines into its culture.

Plus, of course, I needed to find a vegetarian dish. Finally I reverted to a favourite recipe of mine which is hearty and comforting food for winter. Mexicale Pie with Cornmeal Dumplings. My discussions with Americans about Mexican food make me a little wary of calling it Mexican cuisine but it fits my image of Mexican food. And it has cornmeal and corn. So it seemed about as close as I could get to American food. Thankfully dessert wasn’t as challenging – see my peanut butter brownies.

I am sorry to say I don’t know the source but it is a recipe from an Australian diabetes cookbook I have taken out of the library a couple of times (next time I promise I will write the reference). But I have made this recipe many times. However, my blogging has suddenly filled my pantry with more variety of ingredients so that on Wednesday, I was able to follow the recipe rather substituting soy sauce for Worcestershire sauce and cumin for allspice.

Mexicale Pie is a no fuss chilli non carne baked with cheesy cornmeal dumplings on top. The dumplings soak up liquid from the vegetable mixture so the tomato sauce thickens and the dumplings are fluffy and yellow underneath their golden crust. I have seen many versions of this pie but this is my first love and I am loyal to it because I know I can trust it. I still am filled with delight every time I make it. I’ve made some slight adaptions to the recipe but I recommend it to y’all.

Mexicale Pie with Cornmeal Dumplings
Serve 4

2 tsp oil
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium zucchinis, diced (or green capsicums)
2 tbsp tomato paste
440g can of tomatoes, chopped
440g corn kernels, drained
440g kidney beans, drained
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp chilli powder (I use chilli paste)
1-3 bayleaves
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (oops I used 2 tbsp but wasn’t too spicy)
½ cup water

Cornmeal dumpling mixture:
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)
2 tsp baking powder
¾ cup low fat milk (I used whole fat milk)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup low fat grated tasty cheese (I used whole fat cheese)
2 tbsp chopped chives (I used parsley)

Fry onion in oil for approximately 3 minutes in a medium-to-large saucepan (I have a great saucepan I can remove the handle from and put in the oven which I use). Add remaining ingredients (except cornmeal dumpling ingredients of course) and stir. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and discard.  If your saucepan is not ovenproof transfer to a medium to large casserole dish.

While the vegetable mixture is simmering, make the cornmeal dumplings by combining all ingredients. Drop spoonfuls of cornmeal dumpling mixture on top of vegetable mixture – it should cover the vegetable mixture.

Bake uncovered for 10 minutes at 200ºC. Then reduce heat to 180ºC and bake a further 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Update: July 2013.   I have rephotographed this dish, because when I first posted this the photos didn't do it justice.  The very bottom photo is from the original set of photos.  I have also edited the recipe.

On the Stereo:
This is Hardcore: Pulp


  1. This looks delicious! I am going to have to try it for one week on Pie Friday..

  2. Will bookmark this for winter. Sounds very comforting. :)

  3. Thanks Tara, I think it would be a great Friday dish - I love being able to just relax once it goes in the oven

    thanks wendy - it is a good winter dish - fills the house with warmth and wonderful baking smells - a lot of comfort but not a lot of effort!

  4. The problem w/ choosing an "All-American" meal is that pretty much all of these traditional national meals have to do with roasted meat of one kind or another. The only exception would be macaroni and cheese, a vegetarian option, that can be as dressed up as dressed down. It's the national pasta dish, more popular than even spaghetti w/ red sauce. Cornmeal was a good choice; we love it all sorts of ways.

  5. thanks for your thoughts susan - you are right about the problem a vegetarian faces in a world of meat traditions - at least macaroni cheese and cornmeal mean I can find some tradtional comfort food :-)

  6. Thanks for directing me to this recipe! It looks awesome.


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