The reason I was craving tamales was because of the September issue of Gourmet Magazine. It has some wonderful looking grilled tamales on the cover, and the entire issue focuses on Latin American cuisine. If you haven't seen the issue, I recommend checking it out. Not many of the recipes are vegetarian though. The cover tamale recipe, for instance, contains lard. But, I think I could adapt the recipe to be vegetarian. It would certainly be worth a try, as it looks delicious.
1. To make corn tamales, the first thing to do is to soak corn husks in warm or hot water for at least thirty minutes, usually longer is needed. The husks need to be well hydrated and pliable. I soak mine in my sink and put a dish drainer on top to keep the husks submerged, seen above. Note, I soaked way more husks than I needed out of habit, forgetting I was making a small batch.
2. While the husks are soaking, prepare the tamale filling, if you are going to use a filling. I used refried black beans and shredded cheese. There are so many ways to make vegetarian tamales, and I will share more recipes in the future.
3. If you don't have access to a tortilleria where you can buy freshly made masa dough, you can make your own tamale dough. Actually, making your own masa may be the only way to ensure that it is vegetarian, as tamales commonly contain lard. Below is the recipe I used for these 12 tamales. [Click here for an alternate vegetarian masa recipe for a bigger batch]
Masa for Vegetarian Tamales
1 cup masa harina (I used Maseca brand corn flour)
1/2 cup yellow corm meal (I used Arrowhead Mills brand organic)
1 cup (low sodium if possible) vegetable broth
1/2 cup warm water (or more if needed for the right consistency: dough should be well hydrated)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Nama Shoyu or Tamari or low sodium Soy Sauce
Keep masa covered with a wet towel so it doesn't dry out while forming the tamales.
4. Now put water in the bottom of a large steaming pot, set in the steaming basket, cover, and put it to boil. When the water starts boiling, turn to low and keep simmering, covered.masa on the corn husk and pat down to form a rectangle. Place one or two spoons of filling in the middle of the masa. See photo above. Then fold the long ends of the corn husks to the center over the masa, and when the sides meet, the masa will enclose the filling. Then fold the short ends of the husks toward the center of the bundle. Tie the bundles closed with either strips of torn corn husks or with string. I find it is easier to use string. Really you only need to put the string around the fattest part of the bundle.
6. As you make the tamales, you can either keep them under a wet towel so they don't dry out, or you can just place them one by one into the steam pot. I usually just keep adding them to the pot. Be sure not to burn yourself as the steam escapes.
bundles are secured using two strings to make a perfect rectangles. Others I only tied a string around the fat bottom portion of the tamale and left the top flap unfolded. Either way works, as long as the tamale is sitting in the basket on its end that is secured. This is to make sure the tamale dough won't fall out of the bottom of the corn husk.
7. Let the tamales steam, covered, for about an hour. Make sure there is always water in the bottom pot as they are cooking. Add more water to the bottom if needed. Sometimes it can take an hour and a half to completely cook them.
8. You can test if they are done by taking one out of the pot and opening the corn husk. You don't need to untie the strings, they will slip off the ends if you push them off. If the tamale holds together and isn't sticking to the corn husk, it is done.
9. Serve in the corn husks, and let your guests unwrap the bundles as they eat them. They will stay warm that way. Top them with your favorite salsa if desired. I used tomatillo salsa.