Most people have heard of tamales; many have eaten them. They are as traditional among Latino communities as fish and chips among Brits. The taste, texture and ingredients vary from country to country, however. I’m most familiar with Costa Rican ones, of course.

There is a Christmas tradition in Cost Rica of making tamales to share with family and friends. On pre-Christmas visits you may well be offered a home-made tamal (NB: not tamale) with a coffee or beer.

My daughter Abi has made it a tradition in her family to cook a lot of tamales and then invite people over for a pre-Christmas party. These photos were taken before and during last Saturday’s event.


Banana or plaintain leaves are used to wrap the corn-based masa in a rectangular shape. The tamales are then tied up with string. The “filling” of tamales varies but typically they contain a small slice of pork, a few peas and a slice of carrot and red or green pepper.

This is Abi with granddaughter Laura.


I like my tamales with Salsa Lizano on them, the Costa Rican equivalent of HP Sauce. Created in 1920, you are unlikely to find a larder in Cost Rica without a bottle of the stuff in it. It has a slightly spicy flavor.


Tamales and Salsa Lizano rank right up there with pie and mash in my book.