I learned some basics from watching the great Post Punk Kitchen and then with a little internet surfing and a little experimentation (and with much shaking in my boots) I made some all by myself.
There are some basics that you need. First of all Maseca. If you can't find it in your area (I couldn't) you can order it at mexgrocer.com. It's really inexpensive (and delish!)
Next you need corn husks to wrap the tamales. Again I got mine at mexgrocer.com (LOVE that site!)The husks are dried so you need to soak them to soften them up so you can wrap your tamales.
Then you need a nice deep steamer pot. I did not have one so I improvised and it worked quite well. I took an aluminum pie plate and punched holes in it - it fit in the stock pot I had perfectly.
Of course you need filling. I had some TVP that I've never cooked with and thought this might be the time to try it out. I mixed one cup plain dried TVP with 1 cup water and a packet of taco seasoning (okay, so I cheated a little, it was my first attempt and I was going easy on myself.)
I sauteed some onions, garlic and red bell pepper until soft then added the spiced up TVP , a can of black beans, a little veggie broth, a little tomato sauce, a tomato and some chopped jalapenos (because they are my favorite). I also threw in some pepper paste I'd gotten from mexgrocer and a few splashes of habanero sauce (I like the spice!)
I thought it needed a little something more so in went some frozen roasted corn kernals and some spinach... and a little more chopped jalapeno. I didn't use any set measurements, just went for it.
You cook your filling down until it's not so runny and then let it cool. I'm serious. I didn't and it's a mess - the heat from the filling melts the masa and you don't want that - it makes the wrapping a nightmare! You can make the filling the day before and refrigerate it. Trust me. Learn from my mistakes. Let the filling cool down.
Then make your masa (the corn dough). The directions are on the package, but they call for lard - I used olive oil instead.
You have to beat it like crazy - use a handmixer if you have one - until it is light and fluffy.
It ought to be the consistency of peanut butter when you slather it on your softened and dried off, corn husk. Again, learn from my mistakes. I didn't dry off the first few husks and it made it very hard to get the masa to stick to the husk. So pat down your husks before attempting to fill them.
UPDATE: This is what they look like with a little filling.
The wrapping is where you find that practice makes perfect. I messed up a lot. Learning the right proportions of masa to filling seems to be something you just have to learn by doing. But it's a fun process and worth doing it until you learn it!
That's my first little tamale! I'm so proud!
One the third one I tried a different wrapping style. I was getting cocky. I went back to the two tie method.
The recipe I was using for the masa, from the Maseca package, said it would make 16 small tamales. I got 9 good sized tamales that's them waiting to go in the steamer.
And that's them IN the steamer. I covered it and thought it would be done in about 45 minutes. No such luck. They took about 90 minutes - because they were so stuffed. In that time the water in my steamer burned away - so remember to keep an eye on that. I had a lot of water in there, didn't think it would boil away, but it did. Luckily I smelled that something was amiss and caught it before everything got ruined. Whew!You know they're done when they feel firm to the touch and are a little poofier than when you put them in the pot - don't worry, you'll be able to tell. Take one out of the steamer when it feels right and let it sit for a couple of minutes, then try peeling away the corn husk. If it's done the husk will come away smoothly and the masa will be firm and cooked. This one above is done. Sadly my masa was not completely meeting as it should and some filling seeped out. But only a little. If you find your sample tamale is not done, just put it back in the steamer and give it some more time.
When it's done it will look like this!
I ate one and put the rest in the fridge to see how they hold up.
I think they'll be okay.
UPDATE: I resteamed a couple that I had refrigerated yesterday - they were perfect. Then made a second batch. I'm freezing them to see how that works out. This is some of Tamales Day Two in the pot. (my wrapping technique improved and I tried some different styles to suit the husk sizes = it's so much fun!)
Try some yourself!