I have a million memories of eating tamales. From the first suspicious bite when I tasted the pink and greyish mass of lumpy, raisin-speckled dough, to every time after that when I would run out into the street after the tamal man on his tricycle, pushing along a vat of steaming tamales or on Sundays when I would buy them from the old Zapotec lady in front of La Merced church in Oaxaca and eat them with a mug of hot and frothy chocolate con leche.
I had always intended to return to Oaxaca; if not permanently, then at least on a regular basis. But after eight years, I had still not returned, and felt deprived of these sweet steamed envelopes from the city which had taught me how to taste food. Finally I decided to do my research and learn to make them myself.
None of my Mexican cookbooks seemed to have a recipe, and none of the ones I found online were the same as the Oaxacan ones I remembered. Obviously I was going to have to roll up my sleeves and develop the recipe from scratch. A great resource was a clip from the Miami-based morning breakfast show, Despierta América and I was able to adapt it for my purposes.
My tamales turned out perfectly – exactly the way I remembered them, but without the splodge of pink food colouring the Oaxacan ones would have so the sellers could identify them from the savoury flavours. My boyfriend had never eaten tamales, and soon he had eaten at least half a dozen of them. And so had I. Before we managed to eat all 24 of them, I quickly packed some of the tamales up in a Tupperware and froze them – they can be thawed again and re-steamed.
For the recipe click here: My Bermondsey Kitchen – Tamales Dulces