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If you are using dried corn husks, you should put them in water first so that they will become pliable. Put something heavy on top of them so that they can't float.
Cover the chillies in boiling water and let them soften for about half an hour. Purée the chillies in a blender, adding some of the water to make a smooth paste.
Heat a dash of oil in a medium sized frying pan and fry the mince. Add the chilli paste, along with a teaspoon of salt, allow it to thicken. Set aside, and let the filling cool completely.
Make the dough by combining the cornmeal, salt, cumin and baking powder. You can make this dough with a stand mixer, or knead the dough by hand.
Gradually add 700 milliliters of stock along with 90 milliliters of oil until you have a firm dough.
Cut the smaller husks into strips, to use to tie the tamales. Place a corn husk in front of you, scoop a generous spoonful of dough into it and flatten it. Leave the edges free and then spread a spoonful of the mince across the centre.
Close the corn husk packet by folding the sides over the filling and rolling up tightly. Fold the bottom of the husk up and tie the packet with one of the strips of husk. The top is left open, so the steam can escape.
Repeat until all the filling and dough are used up; you can make about 25 tamales with this recipe. Place the tamales in a large colander, so they are ready for steaming.
Put a few centimetres of water in a large saucepan and place the colander containing the tamales on top. Put a lid over the colander and steam the tamales for around an hour.
You can tell if they are cooked by checking to see if the dough is still sticking to the leaves. If it comes away easily, the tamales are done.
Where can I buy corn husks / corn on the cob leaves?
You can buy fresh corn on the cob and then use the husks, you don't have to soften them in water because they are already soft and pliable.
You can buy dried corn on the cob leaves / corn husks online, and often in asian grocers.
Can I substitute the corn husks?
You can use banana leaves instead.
Which type of cornmeal should I use for tamales?
Traditionally, masa harina, a white cornmeal, is used. Various brands are available online, and from most large supermarkets.
What does tamale mean?
In Nahuatl (an indigenous Mexican language) the word tamalli means something like wrapped.
Can I substitute the mince?
You can use a variety of fillings, such as a chicken, stewed meat, pork, cheese, beans or vegetables. Why not try carnitas (Mexican pulled pork), pulled chicken, black beans, sweet potato, peppers, mushrooms or even cauliflower? Boil or roast the vegetables beforehand.
What goes well with tamales?
Tamales are delicious with tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa, and some sour cream. You can also serve them with avocado or guacamole or crumbled (Mexican) cheese such as cotija cheese. This cheese is fairly similar to feta.