Tamales are parcels of corn dough wrapped in corn husks or leaves such as plantain or banana, then steamed. We've made the dough with white corn masa flour, which has a wonderful toasty corn flavour - look out for the Maseca brand. A typical condiment served with tamales is a green or red hot sauce - here we've gone with a green salsa (green tomatoes are a fine option in place of canned tomatillos). Many different fillings and garnishes such as olives, boiled egg, raisins, currants and capers make it more of a party. In lieu of corn husks, use baking paper to wrap the parcels.
- 12-16 dried corn husks, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes (see note), drained
- 1 tbsp lard
- 1 onion, sliced
- Pinch of cumin seeds
- 1 chicken (1.5kg), cut in half lengthways
Green salsa (to serve)
- 6 canned tomatillos in brine, drained, finely chopped
- ½ white onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
- 4 large green jalapeños, seeds removed, coarsely chopped
- 120 gm masa harina (see note) (1 cup)
- 75 gm lard, softened
- 1For poached chicken, preheat oven to 175C. Heat lard in a casserole over medium heat, add onion and cumin seeds and fry, stirring occasionally, until just tender (3-5 minutes). Add chicken, skin-side up, then add 1.5 litres water, or enough to cover, bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and poach in oven until chicken is cooked through (55 minutes to 1 hour). Remove from oven and stand covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and cool chicken completely in stock. Strain stock into a bowl, shred chicken meat (discard skin and bones), then refrigerate chicken and stock separately until required.
- 2For green salsa, place tomatillos, onion, garlic and ½ tsp salt in a bowl, and stir to combine. Place jalapeños in a blender, pour in half the tomatillo mixture, blend until combined, then return mixture to remaining salsa. Makes about a cup.
- 3For masa, bring 500ml reserved chicken stock to the boil in a saucepan (freeze remaining stock for another use). Remove from heat and gradually add masa harina in a steady stream, whisking until smooth, then whisk in lard. Season with 1 tsp salt, transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest.
- 4Place drained husks flat on a surface with the pointed ends facing away from you. Spoon a couple of tablespoonfuls of masa along the centre of each and spread out slightly. Place a couple of tablespoonfuls of chicken on top with a teaspoonful of green salsa, then fold the sides in, fold the tops down and the bottoms up to create a parcel. Tie securely with kitchen string.
- 5Place tamales in a stacked steamer basket (2 is ideal) over a saucepan of simmering water, swapping baskets while cooking, until the filling is warm and set (55 minutes to 1 hour). Serve with remaining green salsa.