Taste a Cuban Tamal, the prince of family reunions
Nutritional foundation of the great American cultures before colonization, highly appreciated for its versatility and exquisite flavor, corn integrates –together with rice and wheat- all the cereals that sustain the international diet. Its name comes from the Taíno word mahis, that translated into our language means “what sustains life”. In Cuba it was introduced by the aborigines from South America, and over the years it became part of indigenous, Afro-Cuban and Country dishes… One of its preparations – known in several countries of America but, in this case, with a special Cuban touch- is the one you are going to enjoy today through these lines. Without further ado: say hello to the “Tamal en Hojas”, the wonder of wonders.
And now you will say: what is special about it? There are many tamales! Well look: in Cuba, making and eating tamales is an experience. It is a festival that begins with the selection of the most tender corn ears and progresses through the preparation of the seasonings, the meats … It is also a laborious process that includes grinding the grains, selecting the leaves that will serve as wrapping, “tying the strips” to ensure that they do not fall apart, boil the water… however, as family and friends usually participate, the wait is accompanied by music, dancing, jokes and the occasional sip of rum. And if you add its exquisite flavor to this mix, there will be no doubt: Cuban tamales are unique!
You will be able to enjoy of parties and tamales throughout the island, thanks to the awesome NATIVA experience that we have integrated, together with the Gaviota group, in the gastronomic spaces of our hotels.
And since we do not want you to run out of the recipe, keep reading that we leave it here:
Tamal en Hojas (Tamale in leaves, native of Cuba)
Ingredients (for 10 tamales)
4 pounds’ baby corn, ground or grated
1 cup of water or milk
1 cup of roasted or cooked pumpkin (optional)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 ½ pound of pork, ham, chorizo or other derivatives
¼ lb lard
2 bell peppers
5 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
First, the meat. Cut it into small pieces, add a cup of water and cook over low heat until it releases the fat and is golden brown. Add the tomato sauce, the chopped onion and bell pepper, and the crushed garlic. Stir and cook for a few more minutes. Reserve.
Then the corn. To make it according to the true Cuban style, canning is not worth it: you will need at least 25 very juicy, tender ears and a bit of skill to shelve them. Once you have the grains separated, you must grind them to a very fine dough. Do not throw the leaves from each ear: separate the larger ones and cut the small ones into strips, which you will tie until they are about 12 centimeters long. Now mix the ground corn with the pumpkin and the meat already prepared (add more salt if you wish) heat a large pot with water and get ready to assemble the tamales.
Take a large leaf from the ears and fold it into two parts. Help yourself with another sheet to form an “envelope” or “hat” where you will pour a ladle full of the corn mixture. Close the edges and tie them well with the strips, tightening firmly so that they do not come loose. Four-handed works better: ask a friend or your family for help and the process will go faster. This is how we do it in Cuba!
Once you have all the tamales ready, the water must be already boiling, right? Carefully drop them into the pot one at a time, cover and cook over medium heat for an hour. Take them out, drain them and serve in a deep dish. It is not necessary to unwrap them: tradition dictates that each person opens its own.
Hmmm … wonder of wonders, we told you. Try it in our restaurants with the NATIVA concept and then go ahead and prepare it at home. You already have another little piece of Cuba with you!