I’m in love with native Oaxaca corn. I’m especially in love with local, organic, non-GMO corn now that I’m on the low FODMAP diet and live gluten-free for my digestive health. I went to a birthday party this week for one of my Zapotec friends. I no longer eat birthday cake. What to do for dessert?
I asked my friend Ernestina to make me traditional Oaxaca nicuatole, a pre-Hispanic corn pudding flavored with cinnamon stick and a little sugar, all water, no milk. I brought the dish to share. It was delicious and none was left.
Ernestina uses gelatin to set the pudding so it can be cut into squares. She uses white corn. Local Zapotec woman can also use stone-ground yellow corn that they buy at the corner molino and don’t add gelatin.
They cook the corn and the liquid down to a thick paste, thick enough to set when chilled. Thick like the consistency of heavy Cream of Wheat cereal. So thick, that when you run a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, you see the stainless steel.
The way to serve it is to cut it into small squares and eat with a spoon. It can be served with fresh fruit, too.
I thought I’d give it a try and researched some recipes this morning. This would give me another option to my corn-based repertoire of Pan de Elote (corn bread) that has become a staple in my kitchen. The important thing for me, too, is no milk, no cream. In other words, lactose free.
I found few and various recipes. Here they are:
Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s Nicuatole from LaRusse Cocina
Chef Pilar Cabrera’s Nicuatole, Casa de los Sabores, Oaxaca
Mija Chronicles Nicuatole, Leslie Tellez
All the recipes use cow milk, except for the one by Chef Pilar. So, I decided to adapt and make my own.
First, I buy the cornmeal at my neighborhood molino on Francisco I. Madero at the corner of Independencia in Teotitlan del Valle. They grind the finest meal in the village, I think! You can use commercial brands, but the preferred would be Bob’s Red Mill or other organic meal, such as Arrowhead Mills. I didn’t have stick cinnamon (the village tradition) in the house, so I used ground cinnamon. For the sugar, I use a combo of natural cane and Mascabado sugar — half-and-half.
Norma’s Nicuatole — Lactose and Gluten-Free Oaxaca Corn Pudding
- 2 cups of fine ground organic yellow or white corn meal
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar or more to taste
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- cinnamon, 5 small sticks or 1 tsp. ground
- 3 cups almond milk (you can also use oat milk or coconut milk)
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbs. sugar for topping (can be mixed with cochineal for traditional red coloring)
Utensils Needed: A heavy 4 to 6 qt. stainless steel sauce pan and a heat diffuser to cook the pudding and a wooden spatula to scrape the corners of the pan while you are stirring, plus a wire whisk to disperse the corn particles into the liquid so there are no lumps.
- Combine the milk, water and cornmeal in the saucepan. Whisk until particles are disbursed.
- Put heat diffuser on top of burner and turn on to medium heat. Place saucepan on heat diffuser. Stir with whisk every 2-3 minutes for about 10 minutes until liquid starts to heat and thicken. It will be the consistency of soup stock.
- With a flat-ended wooden spoon, stir mixture as it thickens.
- Turn the heat on the burner down to low.
- Continue to stir, making sure you scrape the corners where the sides meet the bottom, and across the bottom of the pan.
- You will begin to feel the mixture thicken to the consistency of gravy.
- Keep stirring.
- After about 25-30 minutes, you will see air pockets in the mixture where the steam will escape. The mixture is now the consistency of thick Cream of Wheat.
- Keep stirring until you can scrape the wood spoon/spatula across the bottom of the pan and you can actually see the stainless steel.
- Now, it’s done. This takes about 40-42 minutes in total prep time.
Pour very thick mixture into an 8″x8″ glass baking pan. Drizzle with about 2 Tbs. of sugar. Refrigerate until chilled and set. Cut into squares. Yields 8-12 servings. Serve with fresh fruit such as strawberries, bananas, star fruit, guava. Muy rico!
Years ago, several lifetimes ago, I owned a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, where I taught classes and brought international chefs and cooking teachers to demonstrate their craft. Now, I do this for fun!
In Oaxaca, I buy cooking and baking utensils at Liverpool department store. They have a well-equipped kitchen department where we can find just about everything we need/want for culinary creativity. Liverpool is all over Mexico, too. The All-Clad cookware I transported in my luggage, one piece at a time over several years. A good investment of time and weight!