Wednesday 11 January 2012

Gluten Free Pork Tamales

tamales in corn husks
Tamales Making In Progress
I love it when I discover a meal that is naturally gluten free, as not only does it make things easier by not having to convert a recipe, but I feel like normal person when preparing and eating it. There's nothing been done to make it gluten free, it just is. Hooray for naturally gluten free meals!

I'd been wanting to try tamales for a while and after scouring the web for the  perfect recipe, I found a really good one that made me realise that making tamales wasn't going to be hard at all. Being me I of course tweaked it to my preferences because I figured that by just using chilli powder in the filling was going to make it a bit chilli con carne and I had higher hopes for mine by using chipotles. Other tweaks were also required.
To make 8 tamales.


For the filling:

375g Pork Shoulder
2 large Chipotles
1/2 teaspoon Chilli Powder
1 tablespoon Cumin
2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 tablespoons Sugar
700ml Gluten Free Chicken Stock
Generous pinch of Sea Salt
1 1/2 heaped tablespoons Corn Starch
3 tablespoons Cold Water

For the Masa (Tamale dough):

1 cup Masa Harina
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
120ml Corn Oil
1 cup Gluten Free Chicken Stock

Other things you will need:

A steamer
Corn Husks


For the filling:
  1. Remove any excess fat from the pork shoulder and cut into 1 inch cubes
  2. Remove the stem from the chipotles and chop into pieces (don't make it too fine) keeping the seeds 
  3. Turn the hob onto high and heat the gluten free chicken stock in a saucepan
  4. Add the chipotle, seeds, chilli powder, cumin, garlic powder, sugar and salt and stir
  5. Bring to the boil
  6. Once the liquid is boiling, add the pork
  7. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for 2 - 2 1/2 hours with a lid on
  8. Once the meat can easily be shredded with a wooden or plastic spoon mix the corn starch and water together in a bowl to make a thickener
  9. Bring the saucepan to the boil and add the corn starch liquid
  10. Stir until the sauce thickens and the pork breaks down into shreds.
  11. Take off the heat and leave to one side
For the masa:
tamales masa
Masa Almost There!
  1. Put the masa harina into a bowl, add the salt and garlic powder and mix
  2. Add the corn oil
  3. Mix
  4. Add a small amount of chicken stock and mix
  5. Keep adding the stock in small amounts and mix until the dough holds together (you'll need to use your hands at the latter stages)
How To Prepare Your Corn Husks:

soaking corn husks
Corn Husk Soaking In Hot Water

Depending on how many tamales you want to make you can either carefully separate the dry corn husks and soak them, or put them all in hot water together to separate as they soften. Leave for 40 minutes or so and dry with kitchen paper. It's best to put something on top of them to keep them submerged.

Putting the tamales together:
  1. Take a pre soaked dry corn husk and lay it on a flat surface.
  2. Tear some strips from another corn husk and leave to one side
  3. Take a pinch of the masa from the bowl and press into the corn husk flattening it
  4. You can take the masa to the top of the corn husk but leave room at the sides (see here)
  5. Continue to press small pieces of masa into the corn husk until you get a flat, rectangular sheet of dough
  6. Spoon your pork filling into the middle of the masa
  7. Fold the corn husk over so the masa joins sides and you get a tube encasing the filling (see here)
  8. Take a corn husk strip and tie it around the middle of the folded corn husk to secure (you may need to tie two strips together to make one long enough)
  9. Continue until you have your desired amount of tamales
Steaming the tamales:

tamales in corn husks in steamer
Tamales Standing To Attention
We have a regular steamer that has three tiers, but none of those were high enough to contain the tamales standing upright which they need to be. So, we improvised. We sat the tamales in one of the steamer sections and put another one upside down on the top, we secured with clothes pegs on the handles. It worked a treat. It's best to cover the tamales inside the steamer, we used good quality kitchen towel that wouldn't fall apart.

Steam the tamales (don't let the water touch them) for 1 and a half hours. Tongs are ideal for getting them out to serve.

As you unwrap the tamales, so long as they don't stick to the corn husk, they're done. If they do stick put them back into the steamer for a few more minutes.

Printable Version

Top Tamales Tip:

When you are putting the masa (dough) onto the corn husk, make sure that is in a thin, even layer. When you roll the corn husk so that the sides of the masa meet, you don't want a huge overlap of the masa because it makes the tamales too thick and doughy. This is the only problem that we encountered making these, the overlap was way too much which meant too much dough and an extended cooking time. We only got five tamales out of this recipe, if you do it right, you'll get ten.

An hour and a half of steaming will be fine if the masa isn't too thick.

The finished result:

Unfortunately, I don't have a decent photo of the finished tamales. I messed up my timings and put the pork on the hob way later than I should have done. This resulted in us eating at 10pm and I can't stand to eat late. I just wanted to get it over and done with, so no photo patience, what you see below doesn't reflect on how good these are. The tamales were delicious. I've since had two of the batch that were leftovers which I microwaved (!) and they were really special. The pork filling is immense, it is so moist and full of flavour. The tamale dough is somewhat dense but has a lovely salted corn flavour that compliments the pork filling perfectly.
pork tamales
Way to big due to too much masa used in each one
These really weren't hard to make at all. The trick here is to make sure that you put your pork on early so it has time to cook and soften, then making the masa and putting the tamales together are a breeze. We'll definitely be making these again, just with less masa in each one next time. Considering it was out first attempt and that was the only thing we got wrong, I think we did a grand job as the flavours were perfect.

Tomorrows post will also be from our Mexican food weekend and you know what? It's the recipe that I'm most proud of to date. It was an absolute triumph! I can't wait to post it.

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