Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that takes some effort to make, but are so worth it! Because of this, these days they’re mostly served at special occasions, like Christmas Eve or parties.
I’ve made a couple of different fillings for this now, and I actually prefer the fresh pepper version to the more traditional dried pepper version which I find a bit bitter. The red sauce can be used for enchiladas as well. You can get the corn husks, and masa at mexgrocer.co.uk or the Cool Chile Company in the UK. Makes about 30 tamales. You can freeze the extras. Allow 2-3 per person, keeping in mind that some people won’t stop at 3!
- Large pork Shoulder roast (700g or so)
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Remove the fat from the roast and cut into pieces. Add garlic and onion, cover with about a liter and a half of water and bring to the boil, then lower heat to simmer and cook for 2-3 hours or until the pork is very tender. Remove from heat, shred the meat and set aside. Reserve the broth and cool (you can skim off the fat once it’s cooled.)
Fresh Pepper Red Chili Sauce
- 4 large Romano peppers
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3 cloves, crushed
- 3 peppercorns, crushed
- 4 or so hot peppers, to taste. The mild red ones are my preference, but go as hot as you like.
- 1 cup broth from bullion (vegetable or chicken)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons shortening
Slice the peppers in half and remove the seeds and stems. Wash hands after touching them and keep your hands away from eyes and other sensitive “bits”! Roast the red and hot peppers in a hot oven until just blistered. Place the peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, cloves, peppercorns and broth in a blender and blend until smooth. Melt the shortening in a large saucepan and stir in the flour until smooth. Starin the pepper mixture into the flour misxture and cook for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the shredded pork to the sauce and set aside while you prepare the masa.
The directions are on the corn masa packaging, but in case they’re not:
- 4 cups masa flour
- 4 cups reserved lukewarm pork broth
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups lard or shortening
Combine the corn meal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and add the broth, mixing well with hands. In a small bowl, beat the shortening until fluffy and add it to the masa mixture and beat until the dough is a bit spongey.
Assembling the Tamales
Soak about 30 dried corns husks in warm water for 30 minutes and rinse. Hold a husk with the pointed end facing down and spread a large spoon full of dough (about 2 tablespoons) in the centre of the husk (each husk should be 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the top. If husks are small, overlap 2 small ones to form one. If it is large, tear a strip from the side). Place about 1 tablespoon meat and sauce mixture in the middle of the masa and fold in sides of husk and fold up the bottom. You can fold down the top or leave them open.
Place the tamales in a very deep stockpot with 2 inches of water and a steamer basket in the bottom. Make sure the basket is raised an inch or two above the water (I used two steamers on top of each other) as you don’t want the water to splash onto the tamales. Make sure the pot doesn’t boil dry. If the tamales are open at the top, make sure the open top of the husk is facing upward. Cover with a wet cloth and steam for about an hour and a half or until the husk separates easily from the corn meal.
Serve the tamales with the husk removed and remaining sauce poured over the top.