Tamales are popular from the tip of Chile up to the American Southwest. Peru is part of this tamale zone and has several varieties of these steamed savory corn treats. We have created a delicious traditional tamale recipe for The Authentic Peruvian Vegetarian Cookbook but last night we decided to have a bit of fun. While in Lima we stumbled across a small natural food restaurant serving large steamed corn tamales that included quinoa and coca powder in the masa (corn based dough). We wanted to recreate these healthful and colorful tamales, but as coca flour is unattainable in the United States we used a fortified broth to add some fun color to the dish.
If this is your first time to make tamales you might find the process a bit time consuming and tedious. However, once you have the techniques down and understand the process it can be fun and the results are rewarding. We have some steps and photos that might be helpful on our Tips and Techniques page. There are also many helpful videos online that you may want to study before starting.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 small head of purple cabbage, shredded
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups masa harina
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon of garlic salt
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 cup kalamata or Peruvian olives
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place 20-25 corn husks in a large bowl and cover with warm water to soften while you prepare the masa and filling.
- Prepare the quinoa according to directions.
- In a small pot combine cabbage, vegetable bouillon, and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes. Retaining the water, drain the cabbage and discard. Set aside.
- To prepare the filling, Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet, Add the onions and cook on low heat until thoroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the parsley and olive and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on low heat. Set aside.
- To prepare the masa, combine cooked quinoa, reserved cabbage fortified broth, masa harina, vegetable oil, and garlic salt. Work the ingredients with your hands to create a thick spreadable dough. If it is sticky add more masa harina until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Now you are ready to roll the tamales. Pat dry a softened corn husk and evenly spread about 1/4 cup of prepared masa evenly spread it over an area of the corn husk in an area roughly 3 x5 inches. Place 1 tablespoon of filling along the center of the tamale leaving a 1 inch margin on each end. Roll the tamale making sure that the masa has completely encased the filling.
- In a single layer, steam the tamales in the bottom of a large steamer. It may take up to 20 minutes to thoroughly steam a batch of tamales and you may have to add water a few times to make sure that the pot does not go dry. *TIP: I like to place a penny in the bottom of the pot- as the water gets lower you can hear the rattling increase.*
- Serve the tamales with your favorite aji.
Note: I recommend making a very large batch of tamales and freezing the leftovers in airtight plastic bags. A minute in the microwave will reconstitute a frozen tamale – they survive this process better than any other single type of food I know of.