There are few dishes as iconic to Latin America as the tamale, though their origins are a little less clear. The simple snack of steamed or grilled corn wrapped in banana or leaves date back thousands of years. The first pictorial references are seen on ancient murals in Guatemala created just under 2,000 years ago. Though found in almost all Latin American countries, in some form or other, their original country is not known. They spread from country to country by trading nomads.
Don’t wait to travel to Latin America before trying these mouth-watering snacks, they’re aren’t difficult to make at home. Mexican tamales are often made from lashings of lard which keeps them moist when cooking. Substitute for butter if you’re a vegetarian. Once cooked, you can keep them refrigerated for up to a week.
Serves: 8 (4 each)
Time: 2.5 hours
400 g masa harina (maize flour)
700 ml hot water
225 g lard
100 g butter, softened
2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ baking powder
250 ml chicken stock
24 corn husks or banana leaves
1 large onion
2 large serrano chilies
1 bunch coriander
a pinch of salt
Take a large bowl and pour in all the masa. Stir in the hot water and wait until the masa is moistened. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and doesn’t stick.
Add in the lard, butter, salt, crushed garlic, baking powder and knead again until the everything is well mixed. Add the chicken stock a little at a time, mixing as you pour. Stop when the dough is light and fluffy. Put the dough in the fridge for at least an hour. While the dough is cooling, soak the corn husks in hot water until soft, around 30 minutes.
Now for the slightly tricky part. Lay the first corn husk down and add a large spoonful of the dough in the middle and roll the two sides over the top. Bring the narrow side down and fold the wider part over the top. Tie everything together with string. Repeat until they are all complete.
Put to one side and start on the salsa. Put each of the tomatoes into boiling salted water for 10 – 20 seconds. Remove and leave under cold running water. When cool, remove the skin and de-seed. Dice all the tomatoes.
Peel the large onion and chop finely. Cut the chilies in half and remove the seeds. Finely chop them. Take a handful of coriander and wash under cold water. Chop into small parts. Mix everything together in a bowl along with salt, a squeeze of lime and a little olive oil. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavours blend together.
Take a large steamer and put an inch of water at the bottom. Put on a high heat and leave until the water is bowling. Put all the tamales in standing up and steam for an hour. Remove and leave to cool.
When cool, open the tamales and serve with the salsa. Enjoy.
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