Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    8 to 10

Appears in

Tamales are a good dish to do for a party. If possible, try to get a couple of helpers, as the tamales should be wrapped in banana leaves or cornhusks, which takes time. If you can’t get cornhusks or banana leaves, foil or greaseproof paper will do.


  • 500 g (1 lb) cornmeal (polenta)
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • chicken or beef stock, to mix
  • 500 g (1 lb) raw chicken, off the bone
  • 500 g (1 lb) pork spare rib chops
  • 500 g (1 lb) lean pork, rind removed
  • 250 g (8 oz) chipolata sausages
  • 4 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 8 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • up to 300 mls (½ pint) stock, mixed with dry white wine or water seasoning
  • 12 olives, stoned and chopped, mixed with 2 tablespoons capers and 3 tablespoons seedless raisins


Sift the polenta, flour and salt together. Mix in the olive oil, vinegar, cumin seeds, and enough stock to make a smooth paste that is firm enough to handle.

Dice the chicken, pork and sausages into small bite-size pieces. Cook in a heavy saucepan with a little of the onion and tomato for about 30 minutes. Season to taste. In a separate pan cook the remaining onion and tomato until soft.

Cut greaseproof paper into 8-10 squares. Spoon a tablespoon of the cornmeal paste into the centre of each, and flatten it to about 1 cm (½ inch, hollowing the centre slightly. On top, pile a little meat, some of the tomato and onion mixture, and some of the olives, capers, raisins and beans. Top with some more paste, and smooth top and bottom together to seal the filling inside.

Carefully wrap the greaseproof paper around each tamale so that it is watertight, tying them, if necessary. Steam for at least an hour.

The tamales can be served with hot sauce, if you like, eaten in the fingers when cooled a little, or with knife and fork.