As the days tick down towards the end of the school year, and the temperature rises, I’m finding myself spending less time in the kitchen.
It’s the natural order of things, I guess. The hotter it gets, the less time I want to spend in the kitchen over a hot stove or a hot oven.
I’ll spare you my rave about how much I love my Instant Pot (god knows I’ve done it enough already), and simply offer you this: now is the time to turn to your IP or your slow cooker.
I know most people think of their slow cooker as a winter thing, slow cooking soups and stews all through the cold months. But these appliances are great for summer, too, because they cook without creating the same kind of heat in your kitchen.
But now, let’s talk tamales.
Mexican cuisine has a million ways to use corn, and tamales are just one of them. They’re a bit time-consuming, but as with anything that requires a little assembly, the key is to do a lot of them all at once, and then freeze the results.
If you’ve never had a tamale, it’s kind of like a package made of masa (or corn) dough, rolled around some kind of centre. Often this is meat, but of course, mine are not. The entire thing, dough and filling, is rolled in a corn husk, which keeps it all nicely together in a lovely package, and then steamed or cooked. The end result is a portable, delicious meal.
Lots of cultures use a similar method; here, we eat a lot of sticky rice; rice, wrapped around an either sweet or savoury filling, and then wrapped in banana or lotus leaves and steamed. It’s super popular at dim sum.
What’s great about making these in the IP is that it takes just 20 minutes to cook them, which is about half what it would take you to steam them on the stovetop.
A quick word about vegetable shortening, which this recipe calls for: some folks consider palm oil (which most vegetable shortenings contain) to not be vegan, as, even though it doesn’t contain animal products, it isn’t harvested in a sustainable way, and is contributing to deforestation and possibly the extinction of orangutans. It’s not an ingredient that I use very often, and I almost never buy it, but I think in this case, it’s needed. Feel free to try subbing in vegan butter if you prefer.
- 3 cups masa flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 oz (1 cup) vegetable shortening
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Filling of your choice: you could use refried beans, sautéed veggies, etc, I used BBQ Pulled Jackfruit
- Corn husks/tamale wrappers
- In your mixer (could also do in a food processor, or with your hands), combine the dry ingredients, and then, with the motor running, slowly add in chunks of the shortening, one at a time, until it starts to resemble pea-like crumbs.
- Again, with the motor running, slowly start to add in the vegetable stock, a little at a time, until everything is incorporated. You want the texture to be similar to hummus.
- Cover and place in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes or so, while you prepare the filling.
- To assemble: take a large bowl and fill it with warm/as hot as you can stand water. Place the corn husks in it, and allow them to sit for 5 minutes or so to soften. Place a kitchen towel on your work surface, and put one of the husks on it, the wide end facing you. Place a dollop of the masa dough (around 1/4 cup?) on the husk, and then spread it out until it’s a flat layer, about 1/2″ thick. Place a dollop of the filling on the centre of the dough, and spread it out in a line. Then roll the whole thing up, from one side to another, making a kind of cigar with it, with the filling in the middle. Twist up the narrow end, and use a scrap of leftover corn husk to tie around the entire tamale to hold it in place. Place 1-2 cups of water or stock in the bottom of your Instant Pot, and place the trivet on top. Load the tamales, open end up, on their ends in the Instant pot, packing them in so they stand up. Place the lid on, and set for manual 20 minutes. When the pot has finished its cycle, release the pressure and remove the tamales. Unwrap and enjoy–serve with salsa!