Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tamales: the Mayas, Incas and Aztecs papillots



A legacy of the Pre-Colombian period...


First I would like to apologize for my absence on Travelling Papilles.
Those past days I did not stop blogging I published some recipes on Voyages des Papilles my blog in French. 
I realize that having two blogs is not easy! However it's a real pleasure as I like writing  in my two favorite tongues, French and English!
I also thank you again for your visit and nice comments that really motivate me..






With this Tamales recipe, I suggest you a trip to the Mayas and Incas pre- Hispanic time, a trip to the ancient world.

Historians usually date Tamales at the Pre-Columbian period and between 5000 and 7000 years before Christ!
This dish is a legacy of Mayas, Incas and Aztecs tribes.  
It has survived the centuries and came to us with any changes that usually occurred for ancient recipes.

Whatever the reasons, these changes have contributed to the simplification and improvement of the recipes.
And the Cuisines of the World have generally not escaped to this rule.

The Tamal in Nahuatl tongue (Aztec tongue)  «tamalii "which means " surrounded " was born from the ingenuity of the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs women in the Pre-Columbian era  when they were recruited as " Cooker " in tribal war camps.
The growing consumption of corn and the necessity for carrying easily the food have led these women to create the Tamal which could be compared to our modern sandwiches!

The Tamal could thus be cooked in advance and reheated or eaten cold if necessary.

Historians have identified a wide variety of Tamales from this period, from the most realistic to the most improbable (Tamales with beans, with fruits, frog’s tamales, ant’s tamales ...). 
And also different way for cooking the tamales; steamed, grilled in a Comal (South American griddle) or cooked in the embers etc.

Today Tamales are often steamed or cooked in water. They are consumed in most Latin American countries and have different names depending on the countries, Hallaca in Venezuela, Bollo in Colombia, Humita in Bolivia and Ecuador, Tamal in Cuba and Mexico...

Recipes also vary from one country to another or within the same country from one region to another.
The Dough (masa in Spanish) which is an essential component of this dish, is made with a nixtamalized* corn flour or fresh ground corn.
The dough and stuffing are cooked in dried or fresh leaves corn or in banana or avocado leaves.
 The leaves used should not be toxic.

The stuffing can be made of whatever you like, meat, and fish with vegetables or not prepared with a sauce, it can be contain cheese…  It’s really depends on the preferences of the cooker and of the family taste.

As it takes time to prepare tamales, in the Latin American community   each member of the family or friends give a hand to prepare them.
Large amounts of Tamales are then prepared and frozen to be consumed later.
This is what I did.

I wanted to share this recipe with my french readers on Voyages des Papilles because in France our kitchen is not influenced by South American culture as it is the case for the United States of America or Canada. This is explained by geographic distance. 
The Tamales and their great story are little known in France.

I offer the simplest version of tamales and also my own version.
Feel free to use fresh ground corn to prepare your tamales as desired.


Note: About *Nixtamalisation


Nixtamalization is an ancient Mesoamerican process by which corn kernels are soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually lime water (or more traditionally a mixture of wood ash and water). This process weakens the transparent outer hull, the pericarp.
This method has many advantages, control bacterial activity,and improves the nutritional value.
The product of this process is called nixtamal.
Lime water gives it a characteristic taste. It is ground to obtain a pulp or nixtamal "masa".


For the papillots, you have the choice between dry or fresh corn leaves, banana leaves, aluminum sheets or a plastic wrap.
I do prefer corn leaves, they give a nice taste to the dish.
You will also need a steamer to cook the tamales.














Ingredients: (for about 10 to 12 tamales)

For the dough:

  • 235 gr nixtamalized corn flour (Maseca)
  • 40 to 45 cl of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 35 gr soft butter or lard (optional, I did not use any)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Oil for greasing the sheets


For the filling :

  • Half a roast chicken
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 to 4 beautiful carrots
  • 3 turnips
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves ( optional)
  • 1 tablet of broth
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Parmesan
  • Oil
  • Salt


Preparation:

Start with the stuffing.

Wash the vegetables peel and cut into julienne the carrots and turnips.
Cut the leeks and celery into rings.
Peel the onion and garlic and dice them.
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of oil.
Brown the onions, garlic and vegetables. Stir well.
Add the tablet of broth, the tomato paste and pour water.
Season the sauce with cloves and bay leaves.
Taste and add salt if needed.
Cover the pan.

Shred the chicken.
When the sauce has reduced a bit, add the chicken.
Stir well and let reduce a little.
Take the pan off the heat.
The stuffing should not be dry. It must remain a little sauce.
Grate the parmesan and add it to the stuffing.



Prepare the masa dough.

In a bowl, put the flour, a pinch of salt, butter or lard if you want to add some.
Pour the broth gradually to form dough and knead at least 6-8 minutes.
Let the dough rest for five minutes.

If you use dry corn leaves, in a large saucepan bring water to a boil and remove from heat.
Soak the leaves until they become soft.
Discard the water and keep the leaves in the pot so they do not dry out.
Fresh leaves do not need this treatment, simply rinse them with clear water and dry.

Finally, if you do not have leaves, you can use foil or plastic wrap.
Dry the leaves.

Using a brush and a little oil, grease the corn sheets or foil.
Take a little amount of dough, flatten into the leaves and add the stuffing.
Gently close the foil and tie with a cooking string without pressing too much.
Proceed in this way with all the dough.









Cook the tamales in the steamer for about for 1h30.
Serve them hot in their leaves with a salsa sauce and vegetables.



tips:

To save time, get help from all family members.
Invent and create your own tamales, add whatever you like, leftover meats, and roast lamb, fish, vegetables etc.
The meat should be soft.

Finally you can easily replace corn flour by polenta. It's not really authentic, but what not?
In this case, cook the polenta as you usually do before. The paste should not be firm.
If you still have stuffing, you can make empanadas.





















I hope you will enjoy this immersion in the ancient world!
Thank you for reading and for your comments.

Chantal




References:


  1.  Le maïs en zones tropicales, R.L. Paliwal, 2002.
  2.  Pre-Columbian Foodways: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Food, Culture, and Markets in Ancient Mesoamerica,‎ 2009 , p. 317
  3.  Nixtamalization - Making Masa and Corn Tortilla (You tube)


57 comments:

  1. It looks like you did a fabulous job of these, Chantal! I'd never heard of tamales before starting blogging, so it's great to read such an informative post about them as this. Can you please come over and stock up my freezer with a pile of these? ;-)

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    1. Hi Helen, thank you so much for stopping! I would love do it!
      It takes a little time to do but those ancient papillots really worth it!
      I'am thinking about a sweet version of tamales with a sweet cream for filling.
      Have a lovely day!
      Chantal

      Delete
  2. What nice and amazing recipe Chantal.
    We make here humitas that look like tamales but inside have ground corn paste are delicious too!
    xo

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    1. Oh thank you so much Gloria, I would like to cook humitas too. Maybe I will find a recipe on your beautiful blog.
      Xo
      Chantal

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  3. Beautiful pictures and recipe.. just full of life and spice and beauty!

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    1. Oh thank you so much Pamela, it's so nice from you!
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  4. Criatividade e bom gosto total, bela receita e super saudável!

    Beijos

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    1. Thank you so much Andréa, it is so nice from you.
      Have a great day!
      Bisous
      Chantal

      Delete
  5. There's nothing like homemade tamales, and these amazing, Chantal! I would love to try making these one day!

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    1. Oh thank you Marcie! I hope you will give them a try one day.
      It takes a little time to do but it's so delicious.! I did a lot and I frozen them so I can eat some occasionally with salsa.
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  6. I've only eaten tamales a few times but I found them to be delicious! Thanks for the post and for giving us a history around it :D

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    1. Thank you so much Lorraine, it's my pleasure.
      Tamales are so delicious and really unknown in France as many South American dish.
      I'am so glad you like this recipe.
      Have a nice day
      Chantal

      Delete
  7. Hi Chantal, what a great post, very informative and your instructions are very thorough. Also your pictures came out fantastic! looks really delicious. We have restaurants near us that make pretty authentic tamales and these certainly rival those.

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    1. Thank you so much Cheri, it's a so nice compliment!
      In the US you are so lucky to have access to all of these international food. We are still a little bit conservative in France but things are changing step by step. Finally Tamales are healthy food, they are steamed and can be done with meat and vegetables.
      Have a great day
      Chantal

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  8. Hi Chantal,
    I'm so glad to find your blog! I love what you have written in your 'about' section about your relationship with food and travel - I feel exactly the same way. Food truly does play a role in defining who we are. What a wonderful way to look at it!
    This recipe looks so delicious and the photographs are lovely. You make me want to get into the kitchen this very minute!
    I will be a regular follower. I can hardly wait to explore your blog!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Robyn, thank you so much for your beautiful comment!
      I'am a fan of your nice blog too, the stories, the photos, everything is so nice.
      I will follow you too. Tamales are really delicious and I wanted to share this recipe and to show that we could do them at home also.
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  9. Oh wowwww this is soooo awesome! You know how I just asked on my post which foods are intimidating to make? Well, you just reminded me that tamales is one of them! I love love them so much, but it always stressed me out, thinking about how to even make it. :P

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    1. Hi Ellie, Thank you so much!
      It's not difficult to make tamales, it's just a question of time! And you can adapt them with what you like; only vegetables, meat if you prefer, some cheese... This is the reason why I appreciate them so much. I hope one day I can prepare some Humitas with fresh ground corn, another story!
      I' am so glad that you stopped here,
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  10. I love tamales! And almost never make them Lovely post, super pictures. Thanks so much.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much John! And welcome on Travelling Papilles!
      It takes a little time to make tamales but it's a real pleasure to enjoy them. Here in Paris there are a few South American restaurants but we can't easily find specific meals such as Tamales. I hope things are going to change a bit.
      Have a great day

      Delete
  11. Your photos are amazing! And your tamales sound spectacular!

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    1. Hi Liz, Thank you! I really enjoyed cooking them and eating them as well!
      Merci beaucoup!
      Chantal

      Delete
  12. Your clicks are beautiful, and Tamales are in my list of (to try) :) ... I get so excited when I see someone eats tamales but later I totally forget about it. Will save your recipe and looking forward to try it soon!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Muna! I hope you will try Tamales one day too. They are so delicious.
      And please don't forget to tell me if you give it a try.
      I'am so happy that you stopped by,
      Have a lovely day
      Chantal

      Delete
  13. What an interesting post about tamales. Really like the history behind it and the gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog . Have a great weekend !

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Elizabeth! It's my pleasure.
      Your blog is beautiful, full of nice and interesting recipes.
      Have a great weekend
      Chantal

      Delete
  14. these look so good and its awesome you can blog in two languages

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Rebecca. It's a real pleasure for me to blog in English and French. I confess it's not easy sometimes but I like sharing with people in the world and the best way to do it is to write in English.
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  15. Hi, Chantal! This is my first time here but I already love your blog. Tamales are very similar to Brazilian pamonhas. The 2 basic differences are pamonhas are made from processed yellow corn instead of masa and are wrapped in fresh corn leaves instead of the dried ones. I also loved your coconut tapioca pudding. In Brazil, the most popular tapioca pearl dessert is the one made with red wine. It has a beautiful ruby color -- or the passion fruit tapioca pudding. I have to make your coconut tapioca recipe one of these days and top with mangoes. Keep up the great work!
    Ah, by the way, you carry my second daughter's name. :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Denise, first I would like to thank you so much for stopped by. You are very welcome there!
      I didn't know about Pamonhas in Brazil. I'am so happy you told me about it and above all about tapioca pearl with red wine! Wooow, it must be wonderful! I'am pretty sure I'd learn a lot about Brazilian foof thanks to your blog.
      And what a coincidence, your daughter's name is Chantal. They are so cute.
      Have a great week end
      Chantal

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  16. These tamales look so darn good, Chantal. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Angie

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    1. Thank you so much Angie! I'am happy you like it!
      Have a wonderful weekend
      Chantal

      Delete
  17. Wow, you maintain two blogs in two languages? That must be difficult! Being Mexican, I log your post!:) Tamales are one of my favourite foods and what I love is that you can fill them with pretty much anything.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy, yes I wanted to share with people in the world, I would like to know more about others kitchen and food habits. The best way was to have a blog in English too. I'am really happy to get both of them. Thank you so much for the post,I feel honored that you validate it. I hope I will learn more about mexican foods.
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  18. I haven't had a tamale that looks this good in many years. The options where I live in Australia are limited but when I lived in the US I could buy or make them easily. Thanks for a great recipe.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Maureen, Thank you so much for stopped by! It is the same thing here in France. It is not in our habits to eat such a meal. I wanted to talk about tamales to my french readers, I was afraid about their reaction. They were surprised. I can't say if they are going to try! lol!
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  19. I used to make these in college with my host mom. Love tamales!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Zainad, I'am so happy to see you there! Tamales are so yummy. I'am thinking about doing sweet tamales... I don't know how it will be lol!
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  20. Love the lesson! This tamales look so good - I love the ingredients in the stuffing!

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    Replies
    1. Oh thank you so much Jessica! I hope you are fine.
      What I like with tamales is that you can filled them with whatever you like. I'am thinking about doing sweet tamales, maybe with coconut cream and grated coconut... Lol!
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  21. Homemade tamales are the best! I sound like I make them, but I actually have never tried. My Mexican friend's mom made them from scratch and I have once saw how she made them and I got to eat them... so good! What an amazing work! I wish I could eat some. :)

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    Replies
    1. Oh thank you so much Nami, it takes time to make tamales but at the end it is so good! What I like is that you can add whatever you like.
      I made a lot so I can freeze them. I' am thinking about doing sweet tamales maybe with coconut milk..
      Have a great day

      Delete
  22. I am sure it isn't easy with 2 blogs. I can barely take care one. Keep up with the good work! My in-laws are Salvadorans. They use banana leaves to wrap tamales instead of corn leaves. Yours look perfect! Makes me hungry. I really got to learn how to make some one day. Thanks for sharing, Chantal!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Lokness, I'm so happy to find you there and so sorry for the late response.
      How lucky you are to have a in-laws from Salvadorans, so you can learn a lot of interesting recipes.
      I'm sure you will succeed in doing yummy tamales. It is really easy to do and you can use whatever you like in your tamales.
      see you soon
      Chantal

      Delete
  23. This looks amazing! Maybe some day I will get a steamer and make these.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Cathleen, thank you very much for your comment.
      I know you can cook tamales by the boil in water. I've never tried this method but I will problably try.
      Tamales are so delicious.
      Thank you again
      Have a great day
      Chantal

      Delete
  24. I need to try tamales. Love the flavors here, Chantal. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Thank you so much for stopped by Kiran. I think you will enjoy tamales.
      Have a great day!
      Chantal

      Delete
  25. Would probably be more simple for you to have a bilingual blog, don't you think? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will definitely do that! It will be better and I also keep contact with english readers.
      Thank you so much to stopped by.
      Merci beaucoup
      Chantal

      Delete
  26. Hi Chantal! This post is great! I'm happy to see a Mexican recipe being share across the world and in such a beautiful way. Thanks for doing so. Your tamales look amazing and the history you shared is awesome! I hope mor people in France make tamales and that they would love them as much as I do. Take care.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Prieta,

      Thank you so much! I'am so glad you like this post. I'am huge fan of tamales and if you have tamales recipes feel free to suggest them to me.
      I will be soon back on Travelling Papilles!
      Take good care of yourself
      Chantal

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  28. Your blog is impressive, thanks to the quality of your recipes & other content. We would be glad if you would participate on Contestchef so that your quality recipes can contest with other such bloggers/ recipe creators and win accolades from various players in the global food industry.

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    ReplyDelete
  29. Chantal, this is an amazing recipe. I love how your tamales look and I'm sure they are delicious. Good for you! making tamales in France, go girl! Thank you for sharing this recipe I hope more people learn to make and enjoy tamales all over the world.
    Take care.

    ReplyDelete