Daring Cooks January Challenge: Tamales

Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

Honestly, I do not like Mexican food at all - or South American. My taste buds can't get used to those strange and very spicy flavours (I like spicy, but not hot-so-you-can't-taste-anything-else spicy). I didn't liked the flavour of the Ceviche or the result of the enchilada challenge (too fatty althoug the filling was nice). And now Tamales with a list of ingredients hard to find and corn flour (tastes strange too) ... Luckily I know someone who runs an British-American food store and had canned tomatoes with chilies and refried black beans I could use. And I had some corn flour left which I mostly use for bread baking. I made the vegetarian version and one of my own, using salmon and avocado. Instead of corn husks, I rolled them into baking paper bound with dental floss. The final tamales were really saturating - but sadly nothing more than that. South-American food and I will never go well together I guess.

Vegan Black Bean and Salmon Avocado Tamales
Servings: About 12 tamales each (if you want to make both, double the dough recipe)

  • 8 ounce (225 grams) bag dried corn husks or about 15 cm wide baking paper stripes

Black Bean filling:
  • 15.5 ounce (440 gm) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 ounce (400 gm) can diced tomato with green chiles, drained
  • 10 ounce (285 gm) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm/ 1/10 oz) ground cumin
Salmon and Avocado filling:
  • two fresh salmon filets, skin removed and cut in cubes
  • two ripe avocados, flesh removed and cut in cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • juice of a lime
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grounded pepper mix (black, red and green peppercorns)
  • salt
Masa dough (for 12 tamales):
  • 4 cups (960 ml) (480 gm/17 oz) masa harina (corn tortilla mix), I used instant masa mix
  • 2 ½-3 cups (600-720 ml) vegetable broth
  • ½ cup (120 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1¾ gm) salt
Soak the corn husks: Place the dried corn husks in a large pot and cover with water. Place a heavy plate or a smaller pot full of water on top of husks to keep them in the water. Let soak for 3 hours or up to 1 day, flipping occasionally until husks are softened. Take 3 large corn husks and tear them into ¼ inch (6 mm) strips. (I would suggest you put these back in the water until use because they dry out and start breaking when you try to work with them.
Make the filling. Combine all ingredients for the filling in a medium mixing bowl. Make the masa dough. Combine the olive oil, salt and masa mix in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add 2 cups (480 ml) of vegetable broth. If the mixture seems to dry (you can taste it for moistness at this point) add more broth 2 tablespoons (30 ml) at a time.

Unfold 2 corn husks (or a baking paper stripe) onto a work surface. Take ¼ cup (60 ml) of dough and, starting near the top of the husk, press it out into a 4 inch (10 cm) square, leaving 2-3 inches (5 -7½ cm) at the bottom of the husk. Place a heaping tablespoon (15 ml) of the filling in a line down the center of the dough square. Fold the dough into the corn husk and wrap the husk around the dough. Fold up the skinny bottom part of the husk and secure it with one of the corn husk ties.
Stand them up in the steamer. If there aren’t enough tamales to tightly pack the steamer, place crumpled aluminum foil in the excess space. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes or until the dough deepens in color and easily pulls away from the husk.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The fillings can be made a day in advance and kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator. The tamales can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Tamales can be made 2 days in advance. Let cool one hour, place in refrigerator in an air tight container.

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