We ordered humitas for the first time in a small restaurant in Quito, on the ground that we didn’t know what it was. When a wet pale greenish-yellow pouch (corn husks) arrived to our table, we were almost too scared to open it. But all these worries and assumptions were quickly dissolved and proven wrong. Tightly wrapped within we found a beautifully golden -yellow cake / pudding. We dug in, and it is nothing like what we have ever eaten before. These smooth creamed corn cakes are deliciously sweet and fragranced with onion, garlic and herbs. The recipe below is derived from a series of experiments of recipes available online - we found that some of them are way too sweet (with added sugar, which we didn’t find necessary given the natural sweetness of the corn) and some of them are too dry. The addition of milk or cream solved the second problem.
Our first attempt in making these, pictured, was almost as much of a horror as our first encounter with humitas. No, the picture definitely doesn't do justice to this deliciously sweet, moist and fragrant corn cake. We put this down to our poor wrapping skill. Making them look perfect is definitely an art, but if you can see past the looks of these sweet and savoury corn cakes, we hope you will enjoy these wholesome and hearty treats! ( A very good guide on how to wrap humitas is available from Laylita's Recipes)
If corn husks are not readily available in supermarkets / local markets, we found that baking parchment works best. However, we have seen some recipes suggesting the use of muslin cloth which we think, if layered properly, will be a good alternative. If you are using baking parchment / muslin cloth, you will also need a few pieces of strings to tie around the humitas.
Recipe below makes 4 - 6 humitas, depending on how much you fill each corn husk.
For the basic humitas:
4 fresh corn ears, with husks (if husks are not readily available, you can either order them online or use baking parchment or muslin cloth instead)
8g butter, at room temperature
63g grated mild white cheese, such as a cooking mozzarella (http://www.waitrose.com/shop/DisplayProductFlyout?productId=20390#.UvEBNmeGmP8)
½ tsp paprika
1 small onion, diced
1 cloves of garlic, minced
38ml double cream, or 38ml full fat milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
For the stuffing (optional)
70g diced white cheese, such as cooking mozzarella (grated if preferred)
To serve (optional)
A spicy tomato and parsley salsa (ingredients below – simply mix everything!) or if you manage to track some down, aji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce. Physalis (or tomarillo), which may be available in supermarkets in the UK, is a very good substitute to tomate de arbol (or tomatillo).
20 physalis or 6 tomatoes
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 bird’s eye chili, seeded and finely chopped
A large handful of parsley, chopped
½ lime, juice only
1 – 2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Remove the husks in whole (avoiding breakage) from the corns as these will be used for wrapping and tying around the humitas. Place the husks in a pot of boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
2. Use a knife to cut the corn kernels from the cobs. Place the kernels, butter, 1 cup of grated cheese, paprika, onion, garlic, cornmeal, cream, egg and salt in a food processor. Blend until corn is pureed and well mixed.
3. Prepare your steamer. Make sure that the boiling water doesn’t and will not touch the steaming layer / rack.
4. Fill the corn husks / baking parchment / muslin cloth. You will need two layer of either of the corn husks / baking parchment / muslin cloth for each humita. Place one corn husk on top of another, then place some corn mixture in the middle of the husk. If you are stuffing the humitas with additional cheese, stuff some cubed or grated mozzarella inside the corn mixture. Tightly wrap up the humitas, and use a thin strip of husk or string to tie around the wrapper to keep it tightly closed. Repeat with the remaining fillings.
5. Place the humitas onto the steaming rack. Cover and simmer for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the humitas is cooked through and slightly firmed up.
6. Serve with coffee. (serve with a salsa if desire).