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Ham tamales

These neat little parcels are an excellent way to use up leftover ham after Christmas. Once you get the hang of them, they're guaranteed to become a regular part of your repertoire, with all sorts of fillings.

You'll need

1 tbsp lard 1 onion, finely chopped 300 gm leg ham, cut into 1cm pieces 2 tsp cumin seeds ½ tsp each ground allspice and ground cloves 1 tbsp white sugar 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 60 ml (¼ cup) tomato passata 15 gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped 230 gm (2 cups) masa flour (see note) 18 fresh or dried corn husks (see note) To serve: lime wedges


  • 01
  • Heat lard in a small frying pan, then sauté onion until very soft and translucent (8-10 minutes). Add ham and spices, and stir occasionally until fragrant (5 minutes), then add sugar and cook to dissolve (1-2 minutes). Add vinegar, passata and chocolate, and stir occasionally until mixture thickens (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • 02
  • Combine masa flour with 310ml cold water and ¼ tsp salt in a bowl and knead until smooth. Divide into 9 pieces, then press each out into a 1cm-thick rectangle. Spoon 1 tbsp of ham mixture down the centre of each, then fold lengthways to enclose and seal edges. Overlap 2 corn husks lengthways, place a tamale crossways at one end and roll up to enclose, tucking in the sides and securing with kitchen string. Place seam-side down in a steamer basket and repeat with remaining dough, filling and husks. Steam tamales until slightly puffed (25-30 minutes) and serve warm with lime wedges.

Note Masa flour, also known as masa harina, is a form of cornflour, but regular cornflour doesn't work as a substitute. It's available from South American food stores such as Tierras Latinas and spice stores. Dried corn husks are also available from South American food stores, or you can use fresh husks from the greengrocer. Soak dried husks in cold water before using to make them pliable.

At A Glance

  • Serves 9 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 9 people

Featured in

Dec 2014

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