Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hot Tamale (Bake)

Tamales, if you're not familiar with them, are a masa (dried ground corn*) dough, usually stuffed with cheese, chile or meat, wrapped in a banana leaf & steamed. They are the ultimate in comfort food, and if I could, I'd eat them all day, every day. The thing is, they take sodding ages to make! And you don't make them in batches of two or three, you make them by the dozens. It's an afternoons work at least. So what if you're craving some tamales, but don't have 3 hours spare to make the batter & wrap all those little parcels up? You make Tamale Bake!

This is one of those stand-by recipes that I've done so many times, I don't even think about it anymore, my hands seem to remember what to do, while my mind drifts off to things like seed catalogues, chutney, crochet - y'know, the usual stuff that floats around in there.
Of course the downside to this is when I'm cooking & not paying attention, Tamale bake is what comes out. I'll start out making a curry, or lasagna, or quiche or something, and by the time I've stuck it in the oven, it's starting to twig that the veggie sausage casserole or the cholent has gone south, so I should quickly knock up some guacamole & pretend it's what I meant to do all along (luckily Mikeyfox loves Tamale bake, and is no stranger to the It-Started-Out-As-Lasagna-But-Now-It's-Frittata approach to cooking I have). You can use any veg you have lying around for this recipe, I've been using courgettes, as it's a good way of getting through a glut, but broccoli, french beans, carrots, peppers, chard, mushrooms, runner beans, turnips, spinach, pumpkins or peas work really well (believe me, I've tried almost everything in it!)

Tamale bake
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs Chipotle paste (or ground chipotle. Or a chopped red chilli)
2 courgettes, chopped
1 can red kidney beans (or chickpeas. Or pinto beans. You get the idea)
200g sweetcorn
1 carton passata (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)

100g Masa de harina (I used blue masa, because I'm Peculiar. Polenta flour works just as well too)
1 egg
100ml vegetable stock
25g cheese (mozzarella is nice, as is cheddar. Wensleydale is surprisingly yum. Any cheese you fancy, really!), grated or crumbled
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/G6. Fry the onion & garlic in a pan. Add courgettes & stir around until tinged with brown. Add chipotle/chillis & passata/tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add kidney beans & corn & season to taste. Pour into an ovenproof dish (a cazuela makes it look pretty, but any dish, any shape, will do) & set aside.
Now, the topping. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the egg & stock & beat into a smooth batter. If you're using masa, you'll need to add extra water, a little at a time, until you have something a little more spreadable. Pour over the bean mixture & spread evenly. scatter the cheese over the top & bake for 20 minutes, or until the topping is set & golden.
Serve with anything you like, really (I went for runner beans stir fried in more chipotle paste, but steamed veg, salad, guacamole, refried beans or shredded carrot tossed with a little vinegar are all delicious too!)

Om nom nom!

*Or maize. I'd call it sweetcorn, but it's actually field-corn, which is a taller, tougher variety of corn. Whatever you call it, it's soaked in lime (the chemical, not the citrus fruit), dried & ground into a fine flour which is used to make tortillas (which can be used to make burritos, fajitas, tostadas, nachos and whatever other combination of beans & cheese you can come up with), hominy, pozole, tamales, pupusas... okay, so you get the idea.


Anonymous said...

Some are also wrapped in corn husks. The big leaves that cover the corn.
In Nicaragua I had a tamale that was wrapped in a banana leaf and was rather large. My host said not to ask what was in it. That is never a good sign!

littleblackfox said...

I've made tamales with corn husks before, I forgot to mention that in the post. I usually just use baking parchment when making them, as corn husks/banana leaves aren't usually available here (though whenever I manage to grow sweetcorn, I save the husks for tamales)

Anonymous said...

You can get some here wrapped in baking parchment and then you boil then and ever so carefully snip off the little metal clips holding that paper on.
Pretty good if you're an omnivore..sigh wish there was a veggie one...guess I will have to make my own, like you do!!!