Our hosts for August were Debyi of Healthy Vegan Kitchen and Lori of Lip Smacking Goodness. (The pictures through out the post are from Nikki of Canary Girl, Kat of A Good Appetite and Jen of Delightful Delicacies.) Here is what Debyi posted.

"For the August Challenge, I was trying to decide what was one thing I love to eat, but have never really made. A couple of things came to mind, but there was really no obvious choice. My favorite food that I can't seem to eat out, because of my food allergies, is Tamales! I love tamales, I can never get enough of them. Served with refried beans and Spanish rice, or topped with chili. In my pre-vegan days, I would serve them with scrambled eggs and salsa. There are so many possibilities. You can make them full fat or low fat, vegan or not, although I would challenge you to make them vegan as a great challenge! You can choose your own filling, though I have included some fillings to give you some ideas. Feel free to cut the Basic Tamale recipe in half since it does make a lot, but they freeze well, so if you make the full recipe, you can easily freeze them for tamales anytime. Don't be afraid by how many pages this is. It's long because there are filling options at the end.

I was able to find corn husks in the bulk spice section and the Hispanic aisle of my local chain grocery stores (Fry's and Safeway). Hopefully you will be able to find all the ingredients easily. Bob's Red Mill makes masa harina which I found in the health food section of my grocery store, but I know it is also available on the Hispanic aisle as well. "

Please visit people on the blog roll for their interpretations. Lots of inspiration and ideas out there.

Basic Tamale Recipe
by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Culinary Experience
Serves: 24 Time to Prepare: 1 hour

12 cups of masa harina flour
10 cups of water or veggie stock (see below for some tasty stock options,
this amount may also vary depending on the type of masa you use)
1 tbsp. of salt
3 cups of vegetable shortening (Option: 2 cups of oil or margarine
instead of the shortening)
24 dried corn husks
Water to soak the husks
Option: 1 tbsp. of baking powder

1. Warm the stock. Combine the masa harina flour with the salt (and optional baking powder.) Stir the vegetable shortening rapidly until it is creamy.
2. Pour the stock into the masa mix and stir until it is thoroughly combined. Beat the moist masa mix into the shortening until you have a paste that will spread with a knife without breaking apart. You should end up with a semi-thick paste. If you do not have this, you can add more stock in ¼ cup amounts to the mix until you have the right consistency.
3. To check the consistency, spread the masa on a corn husk and if it spreads easily while staying together, you have the right consistency.
Option: If you use oil instead of the shortening, add it to the dry masa and then add the stock to the masa.
4. Soak the corn husks for at least 2 minutes. (Some husks may still have the silks in them, make sure you remove them before using)
5. Spread masa paste over the top half of a corn husk (the top half is the wide half.) Spoon a line of your filling of choice in a line on one side of the masa paste. Roll the tamale from the filling side to the other side. You will end up with one half of the roll that has masa paste and one that does not. Fold the half that does not have the masa paste against the tamale, folding it in towards the flap of the roll.
6. Repeat this process with the rest of the ingredients.
7. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes. If you have a lot of tamales and a tall steamer, you can place the tamales vertically in the steamer.

Stock Options:
*Boil 2 dates and a pinch of salt with each cup of water for 10 minutes & then remove the dates.
*Simmer one dried ancho, chipotle, or other chile of your choice per 3 cups of water for 10 minutes and then remove the chile (use the rehydrated chile in your filling.)
Use veggie stock instead of water.
*Simmer 6 cloves of garlic per cup of water for 15 minutes, removing the garlic when you are finished.
*Simmer 1 tbsp. of peppercorns and 1 cinnamon stick per 2 cups of water for 10 minutes,straining the stock when you are done.

Whichever stock you use, allow it to cool down to a warm temperature before you use it or else the heat will cook the masa.

Low-fat Version:
Tamales obviously have quite a bit of fat in them, even with the large amount of carbohydrate heavy masa. You can cut the fat content down by about ¼ by adding in about half the amount of stock as removed fat. Thus, if you remove 1 cup of fat, add in ½ cup of stock. Play with this until you get the smooth paste consistency. Keep in mind that the fat binds the masa together, so you may find that your tamales fall apart more often without the traditional amount of fat.

For another low fat option:(from Dr. John McDougall)
Tamale Batter:

12 cups masa harina
2 tsp salt2 tsp pepper
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp baking powder
9 cups water, soymilk, vegetable broth or a combination of all three
4 tsp cider vinegar
24 dried corn husks

1. Stir together the masa harina, salt, pepper, oregano, and baking powder in a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the water (soymilk, vegetable broth) and the vinegar.
2. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour the wet mixture into the dry. Stir togther using your hands or a wooden spoon (you can also use a stand mixture).
3. Open a corn husk and spread the batter over it. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling of your choice in the center of the corn husk. Wrap the batter around the filling, then wrap the husk around it. Tie or twist the ends of the husk closed.
4. Steam for 30 minutes. Serve immediately, plain, or with enchilada sauce spooned on top. (I did half the recipe and still came out with 24, but mine were a little on the small side)

Some people had a hard time finding Corn Husks to wrap there Tamales in. So our host Debyi came to the rescue with this.
Tamal wrappers:
Fresh corn husks are used, chiefly, to wrap fresh corn tamales, which are an especial delicacy of the State of Michoacan, and are called uchepos. Read Diana Kennedy in her Art of Mexican Cooking to find out about them. In Mexico they are made from fresh field corn (dent, flint, or flour corns), and the kernels contain sufficient starch to hold together when they are steamed. Here, using our sweet corn, you need to toss in a bit of cornstarch to bind them together. The fresh corn masa is dropped into the husk in the curve at its base, and they are then basically rolled up, as they naturally rolled around the ear of corn. They are steamed just like dried corn masa tamales. I don't know that you absolutely couldn't put dried corn masa in a fresh husk and successfully steam a tamal, but typically you see fresh corn/fresh husk, dried corn/dried husk. Tamales are also wrapped in Swiss chard leaves, and the leaves of other edible plants. There is another tamal, the corunda, or ash tamal (the masa is made by boiling diluted wood ash with the corn instead of cal, or calcium hydroxide). They are pyramid shaped, with rounded sides, and they are wrapped in the fresh leaf of the corn plant[i].

Avocado leaves are hard to come by here - you can buy dried ones in the spice and herb section of a Mexican grocery, and use them with, say, black beans, for flavoring. But the big, fresh leaves required for tamal making are scarce - I have never found them here in the States.

Banana leaves are really easy to work with ... if you've got a good source for them. Some markets sell them in packages frozen. They must be 'blanched' by passing them over a flame (stove burner, electric or gas), and as you move the leaf back and forth, you will see it soften, and taken on a gloss. Place the leaf on a flat surface and, using a very sharp knife, cut the central stiff vein out of the leaf. Then cut it crosswise into 10" segments, and you are ready to roll.
Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"
Rolling tamales takes a little practice, but not much, so don’t worry if your first few don’t look good. Just keep rolling! If you want a totally enclosed tamale, you can leave enough room when you spread the masa for a fold on both sides of the husk instead of just one half. You can also take strips of corn husks and make a nice tie around the tamales to help keep them together. Note that if you use the baking powder, they will get slightly fluffy and will break apart easier. Finally, allow the tamales to rest for at least five minutes before unwrapping them. The steamed tamales will be delicate when they first come out of the steamer. Allowing them to rest tightens up the masa.

Time Management:
Tamales have a reputation for being time consuming, but once you get the masa paste, filling, and corn husks prepped, you can make them very quickly. To speed up the time, you can make the filling the day before. The masa paste and the soaked husks take a minimal amount of time to prep. Tamales can be frozen and kept for up to a year.

Complementary Food and Drinks:
Horchata, a sweetened rice milk and cinnamon drink, is a wonderful complement to most tamales.

Where to Shop:
All of the ingredients for the basic tamale can be purchased at any store that caters to Mexican cuisine and may even be available in your local market depending on where you live. When buying the masa, look for finely ground corn flour and only purchase as much as you think you will use within the week. Corn flour has a good amount of oil and that means it will go rancid if stored too long.

How It Works:
The stock is added to the masa instead of the other way around so that the masa does not clump. It is then beat into the shortening, which is used to bind the masa together and make it spreadable, for the same reason (yes, shortening can clump when added to dry or moist ingredients!) They are then steamed so that they stay moist and the masa can finish binding together.

Chef’s Notes:
I use the baking powder option as I prefer my tamales to be just slightly fluffy. When I make them, I generally prepare at least 3 fillings so that I can have a variety of tamales with very little extra work. These are best to make in a large batch and then frozen so that you have tamales ready for a long time to come!

Interesting Facts:
Tamales are a traditional celebration food, especially for Christmas. The more proper form of tamale is actually tamal, with tamales being the plural form.

Black Bean Chipotle Tamale Recipe
by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Culinary Experience
Serves: 24 Time to Prepare: 1 hour 15 minutes

1 batch of tamale dough (see Basic Tamale recipe)
16 oz. of black beans, rinsed
½ cup of shredded carrot
½ of a red onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. of chipotle powder
1 tbsp. of mild New Mexico chile powder
1 tsp. of whole cumin seeds
2 tsp. of whole coriander seeds
½ tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of olive oil
Option: 1 cup of soy chorizo

1. Shred the carrot. Mince the onion and garlic. Rinse the beans. Combine all of these together in a bowl.
2. In a small pan, toast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds on a medium heat in the 1 tsp. of oil until the coriander seeds start to pop or the cumin seeds turn a deep brown color, whichever comes first.
3. Mix the chipotle powder, New Mexico chile powder, cumin, coriander, and salt together. Toss this into the veggie mix.
4. Prepare the Basic Tamale dough according to the Basic Tamale recipe.
5. Prepare the Basic Tamale recipe adding about 1 tbsp. of filling per tamale.
Option: Mix the soy chorizo into the veggies after the spices have been added.

This would look nice atop a bed of Spanish rice garnished with black sesame seeds.

Time Management:
The bean mix can be made quickly, so concentrated on making that first and then make the tamale dough.

Complementary Food and Drinks:
Serve this with a side of grilled corn on the cob that has been tossed in a mild chile powder mix. The smokiness of the grilled corn will complement the chipotle flavor quite well.

Where to Shop:
All of these ingredients should be fairly easy to find.

How It Works:
The smoky richness of chipotle powder greatly enhances the depth of flavor that black beans have. The red onion and carrot give it a touch of sweetness. New Mexico chile powder is added so that the tamale can have more chile flavor without being overwhelmed by the heat of additional chipotle powder. The cumin and coriander seeds are toasted to darken their flavors, which helps them stand out amongst all of the other strong flavors in the recipe.

Chef’s Notes:
It’s hard to go wrong with black beans, onions, and chipotle powder, all which go together to make a great chili, which itself was the inspiration for this filling.

Interesting Facts:
The chipotle is a dried, smoked jalapeno and can be purchased whole or in powdered form. Black beans are very high in iron.

Shredded Seitan and Ancho Tamale Recipe
by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Culinary Experience
Serves: 24 Time to Prepare: 1 hour 10 minutes (add 45 minutes if you make your own seitan)

1 batch of tamale dough (see Basic Tamale recipe)
2 cups of seitan
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 dried ancho chiles, crushed
3-4 cups of water
4 bay leaves
1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. of cumin
1 tsp. of Mexican oregano
1 tbsp. of chile powder
¼ cup of raisins
2 tbsp. of pepitas

1. Shred the seitan in a food processor by pulsing it several times.
2. Mince the garlic and crush the dried ancho chiles.
3. Bring 3-4 cups of water to a simmer, add in the ancho chiles, the shredded seitan, and the bay leaves. Simmer this for ten minutes.
4. While it is simmering, prepare the tamale dough according to the Basic Tamale recipe.
5. Combine the black pepper, cumin, Mexican oregano, and chile powder together.
6. Drain the water from the simmering seitan and ancho peppers and toss these in the spice mix.
7. Mix in the garlic, raisins, and pepitas.
8. Follow the Basic Tamale recipe for preparation.
Option: If you want to take some extra time, you can use the water from simmering the seitan and ancho peppers as part of the stock for the tamale dough.

If you want to get extra fancy with this tamale, you can make a roasted yellow tomato sauce with cumin, salt, and lime juice. Place a small amount on the bottom of a rectangular plate and then place the finished tamale along the length of the plate. Finish by garnishing it with a wedge of lime and a stuffed green olive. Of course, you can always pile these on a platter and they will be gone soon enough without the fancy plating!

Time Management:
The longer this filling sits, the better it will get. Consider making the filling the night before you plan on using it.

Complementary Food and Drinks:
Serve this tamale with a side of smoked paprika rice and beer glazed onions with mashed black beans. The roasted yellow tomato sauce mentioned above would also go quite well with this one.

Where to Shop:
If I don’t feel like making my own seitan, I’ll usually purchase the White Wave brand from Wild Oats or Whole Foods. The anchos can be purchased at most stores that have a heavy Mexican food section, gourmet markets, and spice stores. If you can’t find them, you can substitute any large dried pepper of your choice. The Mexican oregano can be purchased at the same locations. If you can’t find it, you can substitute a like amount of fresh thyme leaves. Pepitas are green pumpkin seeds and can be found in bulk at most stores that have bulk bins, such as Sprouts.

How It Works:
Simmering the seitan with the bay leaves and crushed anchos infuses it with those great flavors while rehydrating the ancho peppers at the same time. The anchos are crushed before they simmer because they become too hard to chop once they are rehydrated. The pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) are there for texture and bit of soft flavor while the raisins balance the heat of the chiles.

Chef’s Notes:
This most closely resembles a traditional tamale filling, using shredded seitan instead of pork and adding in the traditional peppers. The raisins were inspired by my mom, who used to make tamales with her aunts. One of those aunts would add raisins into the masa and I thought that would work very well in the filling, which it did!

Interesting Facts:
Seitan was created in the 7th century B.C.E. by Buddhist monks in China. Ancho is the Spanish word for “wide.”

Green Corn Tamales Recipe
by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Culinary Experience
Serves: 24 Time to Prepare: 1 hour (add 30 minutes if you roast your own chiles)

½ batch of tamale dough (see Basic Tamale recipe)*
½ cup of sugar
12 ears of corn
2 cups of roasted chiles in strips (fresh roasted Hatch chiles work
*Substitute 5 cups of soy creamer for 5 cups of the liquid in the Basic Tamale recipe

1. Remove the corn from the cob (or you can use frozen corn kernals if you need to). Grind the corn in a food processor until it is coarse.
2. Prepare the tamale dough according to the Basic Tamale recipe, substituting 5 cups of soy creamer for 5 cups of water.
3. Combine the tamale dough with the ground corn and cut the chiles into strips.
4. Prepare the tamales using the Basic Tamale recipe and adding in 1-3 strips of roasted green peppers for the filling. Unlike the Basic Tamale recipe, however, the spread should be 1/3” to ½” high.

Option: Roast the corn before removing the kernels from the cob.

This looks nice on a plate with a few dots of sweet agave nectar and sprinkles of toasted pepitas.

Time Management:
If you roast your own peppers (I highly suggest this,) get them on the grill and then work on the dough while they are roasting.

Complementary Food and Drinks:
These go well with a crisp beer and a bowl of tortilla soup featuring poblano peppers and zucchini. Those flavors seem to combine quite well with the sweet masa and the roasted green chiles.

Where to Shop:
Soy creamer (Silk is the most popular brand) can be purchased at Sprouts, Whole Foods, Central Market, and other stores of that ilk. It can even be found at some of the newer stores of more common chains like Fry’s. For the peppers, I usually head to my local market and see which green ones look the best.

How It Works:
The soy creamer, sugar, and ground corn combine to make the masa quite sweet, which balances the spicy roasted pepper. Because this masa has a lot more flavor than a regular masa, more of it is used so that it becomes a featured ingredient. The corn is ground so that its fresh sweetness and crispness is evenly distributed throughout the tamales.

Chef’s Notes:
I enjoyed the simplicity of this recipe, which yields incredible results without having to do a lot of fancy work. Sometimes the most elegant recipes are the best ones.

Interesting Facts:
Zacahuil is another name for tamale in southern Mexico. Teosinte is thought to be the genetic parent of maize (corn.)

Quotes From the Forum:
its REAL easy. I cant believe I have put off making them out of fear for 12 years. Ah yeah, thats what I said, twelve years.
Lori of Lip Smacking Goodness

Oh my good golly miss molly these were fabulous!
Every time Hub ate one of these (even days after) he would say "wow".
Jen of Delightful Delicacies

how could you not love anything wrapped in masa? the hardest part for me is waiting for them to cook thoroughly!
Lauren of I'll Eat You