These flavorful tamales are sold from street stands during the holidays in Puerto Rico. This recipe first appeared in our December 2011 issue along with Kathleen Squires's story Island Holiday.
- 3⁄4 cup canola oil
- 1 tbsp. achiote seeds
- 1 lb. pork loin, cut into ¼″ cubes
- 8 oz. ham, cut into 14″ cubes
- 3⁄4 cup pitted dates, minced
- 2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. capers, minced
- 12 pitted green olives, minced
- 4 sprigs cilantro, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1⁄2 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1⁄2 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 lb. white yautia or taro, peeled, rinsed, and grated
- 2 lb. green bananas, peeled and grated
- 1⁄2 cup milk
- 1⁄2 cup blanched whole almonds
To make filling, heat oil and achiote in a 1-qt. saucepan over high heat until oil turns red; remove and discard achiote. Mix ¼ cup achiote oil, pork, ham, dates, juices, oregano, capers, olives, cilantro, garlic, onions, peppers, chickpeas, and salt and pepper in a bowl; chill. To make the dough, process remaining achiote oil, yautia, bananas, and milk in a food processor until smooth.
To form the pasteles, spread ¼ cup of the dough onto a 5″ x 3 ½″ rectangle in center of a 12″ square of banana leaf or parchment paper; place 3 tbsp. filling over dough; top with 5-6 almonds. Fold square in half so dough encloses filling; continue folding under the open top and sides to form a tight package. Wrap package tightly in a 12″ square of foil; repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bring an 8-qt. saucepan of water to a boil; add packets. Simmer until filling is cooked through, about 1 hour. Drain and cool before serving.