Thursday, November 8, 2012
SAVORY VEGAN CORN PUDDING (OR CUSTARD), A CLASSIC AMERICAN DISH FOR THANKSGIVING OR ANY DAY
Last week a friend mentioned that she was developing a vegan version of Corn Pudding for Thanksgiving because her mother always served it. This is an old American dish which mixes a Native American food with European ingredients. Corn pudding is a descendant of common British vegetable puddings using eggs and milk and any vegetable (or fruit) available. It makes a great side dish, or a light main dish. (For "fancier" individual serving, you can bake them in ceramic ramekins instead of a pie pan.) Early corn puddings often had quite a bit of sugar added because the corn available in the early days was not as sweet as what we have available now. No need for sugar these days, in my opinion, but some Southern cooks still add it.
My friend's experimenting reminded me that I had a recipe in one of my older books, "Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause", and that I hadn't made it for a long time, even though I really enjoy this classic American dish. So, I found my old recipe and decided to see if I could tweak it a bit more. The result is below, and I hope you'll enjoy it.
VARIATIONS: This is a dish that's open to many interpretations-- in different areas of the US, the flavoring varies according to regional tastes. My recipe is most like a classic Eastern Shore corn pudding. In the South, sugar is sometimes added, or the pudding is made richer with sour cream and cheese. Southwestern corn pudding often has hot sauce, fresh chiles, chipotles and/or chorizo added. Vegan versions of those ingredients can be added, if you like, but be careful of adding too much moisture to the mix. Other additions might be vegan bacon bits or chopped vegan ham, or sauteed chopped green onions or chives.
BRYANNA’S VEGAN CORN CUSTARD (or PUDDING)
Adapted from a recipe in my book “Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause”.
This is best with fresh seasonal corn, but still delicious using frozen corn, if you use "peaches and cream" or another sweet corn variety.
12 oz. medium-firm tofu or extra-firm silken tofu
2 T. + 1 tsp. corn flour (finely-ground yellow cornmeal)
(Note: If you have no corn flour, use 4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch instead, but the corn flour does add extra corn flavor)
3/4 tsp. salt (with a pinch of Indian black salt (Kala Namak) for eggy flavour, perhaps?)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 to 3 tablespoons vegan butter, depending on how rich you want the dish
2 cups corn kernels (thawed, if frozen), coarsely chopped in a food processor
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Optional, but nice:
a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh herb of your choice (tarragon, basil, parsley, oregano...)
1/2 a red pepper, chopped
1/2 a green pepper, chopped
A bit of grated vegan cheese for the topping
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a food processor, blend together the tofu, corn flour, yeast flakes, salt, turmeric and baking powder. Blend until very smooth.
To sauté the onion, either cook it with the vegan butter over medium heat in a small, heavy skillet, or microwave them in a covered dish with the vegan butter for about 2 minutes, until they are softening. At this point, add the garlic, peppers (if using) and processed corn. Sauté or microwave the mixture until the peppers are softened. Remove from heat.
Fold the cooked veggies into the tofu batter and in a medium bowl. Add any other ingredients for variations (below), if using. Spread the mixture in an oiled or “buttered” 9" pie dish (Pyrex or ceramic, if possible). Bake for 35 minutes, or until set. Serve warm.
PS: If you decided to top the dish with some vegan cheese, do it in the last 5 minutes of baking.
NOTE ABOUT CORN FLOUR: As a thickener, corn flour creates a pale yellow "buttery" or "eggy" color in the finished product that is much more appetizing than turmeric (which tends to have a greenish cast and, therefore, looks phony).
It also contributes a "buttery" flavor or even an "eggy" flavor. It blends to a creamy smooth texture after it's cooked in liquid and then blended with more liquid. Adding a tiny bit of vegan butter gives it an even more buttery taste with very few calories in the finished product, but, in most cases it is not even necessary!
Corn flour mixtures cook well in the microwave, BTW.
Corn flour is not the same as cornstarch (confusingly, what we call "cornstarch" in North America is referred to as "corn flour" in the UK)- it's very finely-ground yellow cornmeal. Nor is it the same as "masa harina", the corn flour used for making tortillas, which is treated with lime. I can find corn flour in the Asian or Indian section of my supermarkets (Overwaitea and SuperStore here in BC, Canada), but also look for it in Indian markets and health food stores, which have organic brands) or amazon. Here is a Canadian link.
If converting a recipe that calls for cornstarch, use half again as much corn flour as cornstarch.
NOTE: IF YOU CAN'T FIND CORN FLOUR, if you prefer to use organic products and can't find the organic kind, grind the finest yellow cornmeal you can find in a clean coffee/spice mill until it is powdery (this is important), or grind yellow cornmeal on the finest setting of your electric grain mill (I had to run it through mine twice).