At this time of year, tamales are on my mind. The aroma of tamales steaming slowly on the stove are what I remember the most about Christmas, even more than the presents, if you can believe that. And this Christmas, we had a chance to see my family and eat some of those homemade tamales again! Delicious! My parents had almost 40 family members over for Christmas and we all had as many tamales as we wanted. Even my nephew, Aidan, below.
I have posted my family’s version of tamales earlier, but I wanted to try something different. This recipe is from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero and includes her vegan version of masa. I have always liked sweet potatoes, especially roasted in the oven. The addition of black beans with the smokiness of chipotle chiles just adds another delicious layer. I modified the recipe slightly, based on how I steam my tamales, but this is mostly her recipe. I also added more of the sweet potato to each tamal.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales
24 dried corn husks, plus some for lining the steamer
1 pound sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound onion (white or yellow), diced
2 chipotles en adobo, minced
1/4 cup vegetable broth or white wine
2 cups black beans
1 recipe Vegan Masa Dough (see recipe below)
Rinse the corn husks and soak in hot water for at least two hours. Keep them in the water until you are ready to use. I keep them submerged with a heavy can or a dish full of water, as you see below. Drain well before using.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork a few times or cut larger sweet potatoes in half and place them on a baking sheet (I lined my baking sheet with aluminum foil). Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft. Set aside and let them cool.
When they are cool enough to handle, spoon them into a bowl. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. With a fork, mash them to a chunky consistency.
In a large skillet at medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the minced chipotles and the broth. Simmer for a minute and add the black beans. Simmer for another few minutes, take off the heat and set aside to cool.
Assembling the tamales: For each tamal, spread a 1/4 cup of the masa (dough) on the corn husk, leaving a little bit of space around the edges. Spread 1 – 2 tablespoons of the sweet potato in the center of the tamal dough. Add a tablespoon of black beans over the top.
Take the edges of the corn husk and fold them over to encase the filling. Take the pointed bottom end of the tamal and fold it up and turn it over, seam side down, on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the tamales.
Steaming the tamales: From my experience, most tamales are steamed in the same way and this is how I’ve made them before.
I use a stock pot to steam the tamales. If you have a tamal steamer, you can use that. I place a few very clean coins at the bottom of the stock pot. After adding a steam basket and water up to the level of the basket, place some of the remaining corn husks at the bottom of the pot. Make sure that the water does not move up from this level.
Place the tamales in the pot, leaving a little bit of room between each tamal. Once all of the tamales are in, cover them with the remaining corn husks. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, bring down the temperature. Soak a clean kitchen towel with water, wring it almost dry and place it over the corn husks. Cover the pot with aluminum foil to seal the steam in and cover with the lid.
Steam for an hour. After the hour, check a tamal to see if they are ready. You can tell they are ready when the masa pulls away from the corn husk. If the masa has not firmed up, fold the tamal back up and return to the pot and steam for another 5-10 minutes
Do not let the water dry out. The coins are there to let you know that there is still water at the bottom of the pot. They will move and make noise if there is water agitating them. If it gets quiet, carefully add more water.
When they are done steaming, uncover the pot and let the tamales sit for about 10-15 minutes as they cool down a bit. Then you can enjoy a delicious tamal!
NOTE: Make sure you don’t eat the corn husk! They add flavor to the tamal, but they are not edible.