Pam's Tamale Pie

Author: Catherine Bartlett   Date Posted:25 September 2019 

I met Pam over 20 years ago where we both worked at the Henty Gold Mine on the wild west coast of Tasmania. She was a geologist working alongside my future husband. It was a brilliant time in my life. There were about two dozen young professionals; engineers, teachers, environmentalists, nurses, etc. we had all come from somewhere else, all on our own, to a tiny town with limited social life – so we made our own. We reinvented ‘dinner parties’ where we solved the world’s problems, we made long-lasting friendships, and for me – met the love of my life. The story about his ‘dessert dinner party’ is legendary amongst that group of friends, and one that will be shared later. . . .

Pam was originally from California and lucky for us she ended up in Australia. She had worked in the hot, dry and dusty outback of WA and the cold, wet and soggy west coast of Tas. After her Australian adventures she has literally worked all over the world. She is now a proud Canadian, hey!

Back in Tassie, Pam introduced us to a little piece of Mexican cooking that is fun, delicious and a definite family favourite.  We call it Pam’s Tamale Pie. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!


Ingredients – Pie:

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder (more/less up to you)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (dried – more if fresh)
  • ½ cup polenta mixed with 1 cup of water


  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Brown beef, onions, and garlic.
  3. Add capsicum, tomatoes, beans, corn and herb and spices – simmer for 5 mins.
  4. Mix polenta with water, stir into mixture and simmer for another 10 mins.
  5. Pour into baking dish, I like ceramic – but you can use whatever you like.


Ingredients – Cornbread Topper:

(My family like this bit a lot, so we double it!)

  • 1½ cups of milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup polenta
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs


  1. Heat up milk, salt and butter in a pot on the stovetop over a low heat.
  2. Gradually stir in polenta.
  3. Stir until mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in cheese and beaten eggs.
  5. Spoon over top of meat mixture.
  6. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, until cornbread topper is golden brown.
  7. Serve with sour cream, avocado, coriander and squeeze of lime.

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