In addition to pineapple, they are commonly filled with nuts and rompope (an egg nog–like drink) or even made with apple and cinnamon. I've gone for a more simple version here, using only pineapple chunks and the syrup from the tin.
- 20 sweetcorn husks (see Note)
- 200 g pork lard
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 400 g caster sugar
- 500 g masa flour, sifted
- 200 g finely diced tinned pineapple in syrup
- 1 tsp yellow food colouring
- 400 ml pineapple syrup from the tin
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Soften the sweetcorn husks in water, then drain to remove any excess water.
2. Place the lard, baking powder and sugar in a bowl and whip the mixture as fast as possible using a wooden spoon – the lard needs to soften and look spongy. Don’t stress if this takes a long time; it can take up to 15 minutes to achieve the right consistency, especially if this is the first time you’re making tamales. Once the lard is ready, add the flour and pineapple. Whisk together the yellow food colouring and pineapple syrup, then add to the lard mixture and mix well until completely combined.
3. Spread 200 g of the dough in the middle of a damp sweetcorn husk, leaving a 5 cm border around the edge. Place another sweetcorn husk over the filling, then wrap up the tamale by overlapping the sides and folding over the top and bottom edges towards the centre to enclose the filling. Secure the ends with kitchen string and set aside. Repeat with the remaining husks and dough to make 10 tamales.
4. Place the tamales standing upright in a large steamer (do not stack on top of each other). Fit as many tamales as you can into the steamer but be careful not to pack them in too tightly as they can burst, leaving you with empty tamales. Place the steamer over a saucepan of simmering water and steam for 45 minutes.
5. The best way to check if your tamales are cooked is to remove one from the steamer, let it cool for 5 minutes and then unwrap the husks. If the masa doesn’t stick to the husks and it looks shiny and fluffy, then your tamales are ready.
6. Leave the tamales to cool for 15–20 minutes inside the steamer, then transfer to serving plates and serve.
• You can buy dried sweetcorn husks from Latin American supermarkets or online.
Recipe and image from Comida Mexicana by Rosa Cienfuegos (Smith Street Books, RRP $45).