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Shiitake mushroom and guajillo chilli tamales

Serves

16 tamales

Cooks In

forever

Difficulty

difficult

Tamales* are a real treat, but they do take a little practice to make , which can be made more enjoyable with friends or family in a production line! Masa dough is whipped with fluffy fat to make a light batter, spread on a soaked corn husk, filled, then rolled and folded to encase the dough. They are then steamed until firm. Eat them whilst still warm from the steamer or fry the next day to reheat. This mushroom and guajillo tamal is vegan as it uses vegetable shortening for the fat, the guajillo is tangy , the arbol a little spicy and the mushroom provides a balancing earthy note. *Tamal (singular), tamales (plural) are a wrapped steam corn dumpling that can be either savoury or sweet, filled or plain.

Method

Separate the corn husks in a container and cover completely with hot water. The corn husks will float, so to keep them submerged, place a plate or another suitable object to weigh them down. Soak the husks until pliable, about 30 minutes to an hour.

The filling

  1. In a cast iron dry frying pan, over medium high heat, place the tomatillos, garlic and onion on one side to roast. 
  2. In the free room in the pan, start toasting the chillies one at a time, pressing them down on the hot surface until they change colour and a wisp of smoke emerges, flip and toast the other side ensuring not to burn but to toast evenly. 
  3. Place them in a bowl filled with hot tap water. Let soak for 30 minutes or until soft, keeping them submerged by placing a small plate on top. 
  4. At the same time keep an eye on the veg and turn them as needed so roasted and soft on all sides.
  5. When done remove them to a plate, when cool enough peel and reserve.
  6. In the same pan, add the peppercorn and cumin toast until it smells sweet and nutty, transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Reserve
  7. Drain the chillies reserving a cup of the soaking liquid if it is not bitter, if it is use water. 
  8. Place the chillies, and the roasted peeled vegetables in to the blender with the soaking liquid or water, blend until very smooth. Sieve into a bowl, reserve.
  9. In a wide bottom sauce pan over medium heat add the oil, when hot add the mushroom and stir until softened, add the puree, ground spices, salt and the epazote, stir and let cook until thicker and darker and the sauce is clinging to the mushrooms and it is spoon able. 
  10. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 

The dough

  1. In a bowl mix the masa harina with the vegetable stock powder and mushroom powder to combine.
  2. Make a well and add the water. 
  3. Using a spoon or spatula mix until combined and then use your hands to make sure there are no dry patches, leave to cool.
  4. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on, add the Trex or equivalent, salt and baking powder. Turn on medium speed and beat until light and fluffy about 5-7 minutes. It will more than double in volume.
  5. When the fat is really fluffy, with the machine running start adding biggish lumps of dough to the standing mixer bowl, let it combine before adding more, scrape down the sides periodically and an ensure all is evenly mixed.

Setting up the steamer

  1. You need a vessel with a lid that is tall enough to hold the tamales upright with a steamer unit at the bottom. We used a folding steamer with 500ml of water at the bottom, you can either line the steamer with foil or parchment paper, ensuring that the length is long enough to fold over the top of tamales when they are in the pot, the idea is to cover them completely, so they don’t get soggy from the condensation in the steamer.

Folding the tamales

  1. Drain the corn husks and squeeze out the excess liquid. Get you filling, dough, and corn husks set up on the counter with a small bowl of water on the side. 
  2. Grab a corn husk and feel both sides one is smoother than the other this is what you want to put the dough on, so place it facing up, with the point of the husk closest to you. Using a ½ cup 90g approx. (1/3 cup is about 60g, found too small and had problems rolling without the filling breaking through) measurement scoop up a level measurement and using a spatula place the dough at least 1 cm down from the top edge. 
  3. Dip your hand into the cold water and press the dough flat into a rectangle shape. The place 1 tbsp. of the filling or about 20g down the centre of the dough, place a few strands of enoki mushrooms if desired. 
  4. Then holding both outer edges of the corn husk bring it towards the centre until both outer edges of the dough touch, roll backwards and forwards a little until you have sealed and the filling is entirely enclosed including the bottom, you will see the filling from the top when looking down. The idea is to not allow any of the filling to show through the dough, this is not easy! Roll the husk so it is encasing the dough then fold the point up to make the bottom enclosed. 
  5. Give it a tap and place in the tamal steamer.
  6. When you have finished, rolling and folding, fold the lengths of foil over the tamales to cover them, tucking in the edges down the sides. Put the lid on and bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and let steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes, you need to check periodically that the steamer has not boiled dry, top up with boiling water if it feels low, making sure to pour the water down the side and not on the tamales. You can tell when they are done when the husk peel cleanly way from the dough and they are light and springy to the touch.
  7. Let them cool slightly and eat when warm or better yet, cool completely and refrigerate re steam the next day. Serve warm.