Tamales are one of my all-time favourite foods. This recipe was a staple item on the summer menu of my restaurant in California. Soft spiced dough steamed to perfection in dried corn husks and filled with roasted jalapeños, sweet potato and black beans. What’s not to like? 

Masa harina is a flour made from maize that’s soaked in lime and ash to remove the outer husk. This adds flavour to the maize and also aids in the digestion of nutrients found in the grain. It’s the staple ingredient of soft corn tortillas and tamales. Masa harina and corn husks can be ordered online from Mexican grocery stores or purchased at whole food shops. Banana leaves are common in the more tropical regions of Mexico and also used for wrapping the tamale.

For a light fluffy tamale, it is helpful to have a stand mixer to incorporate the water and then the oil to the masa. This can also be done in a bowl by simply combining all of the ingredients for the dough, however, the finished tamale with be a bit denser.  

Serve with the salsa verde.  Can’t find tomatillos for making salsa verde? Try another salsa instead like roasted tomato salsa or rhubarb salsa.

SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN TAMALES

Makes about 12 tamales, typical serving is 2 tamales

For the filling
2 sweet potatoes, cut into tiny cubes
3 jalapeños or green chillies, seeds removed and sliced into thin strips
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tin of black beans, rinsed
4-6 spring onions, diagonally sliced thin

For the masa dough
300g masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
375ml warm water
100ml rapeseed oil or vegan margarine  
1 package cornhusks, soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes and using a heavy plate to keep the husks submerged

For the salsa verde
600g tomatillos, husks removed
2 jalapeños or mild green chillies, seeds optional
2 small onions
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp rapeseed
1 large handful coriander, roughly chopped
juice of 2 limes
salt and sugar to taste

Method

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the masa harina, baking powder, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Turn the machine on low and slowly pour in the hot water. Once all the water is added, increase the speed and whip the masa for 5 minutes.  Remove from the machine, cover with clingfilm and let stand for 30 minutes. Return the masa to the stand mixer and mix at high speed for 5 minutes. Add the oil or margarine 2-3 spoonfuls at a time. Once all the oil has been added, beat for another 5 minutes.   

Preheat the oven to 200°C / Gas Mark 6. Place all the filling ingredients, except the black beans and spring onions, on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes stirring once. When the sweet potatoes are tender, remove from the oven and stir in the spring onions and black beans.  

After soaking and before using, rinse the cornhusks to remove any dirt or corn silk. Separate and stack the husks in a large bowl. To prevent the husks from drying out while working, cover the bowl with a clean, damp towel.

Prepare ties to secure the tamales by tearing one or two husks lengthwise into 1cm (¼ inch) thick strips. Each tamale will need two strips. 

Place a large cornhusk down on the counter; the sides of the husks should slightly roll into each other.  

Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa dough on the smooth side of a cornhusk, leaving at least 5cm (2 inch) on each end. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough. Roll the husk over until the sides of the dough touch. Continue rolling until the husk forms a cylinder. Twist at each end and secure by tying a knot with a strip.

Place the tamales in a steamer and bring to the boil. Steam for about 35 minutes or until firm to the touch, making sure the tamales are stacked one or two high to rotate positions.

To make the salsa verde remove the husks from the tomatillos. Roughly chop the jalapeños, onions and garlic. Place the tomatillos, chillies, onions, and garlic on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Roast at 200°C / Gas Mark 6 for about 20 minutes or until beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and place in bowl.  

Add the coriander and lime juice to the bowl. Puree using a hand blender until mostly smooth. Taste and add salt and sugar if needed.

Have you made this dish? I love seeing my delicious recipes come to life, so share a picture with me on Instagram by tagging @naturalcookeryschool and I’ll re-share your post!

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