Let me start by saying that what I know about South American cooking can be written on the back of a postage stamp… in large print. That is to say, I don’t know much.
I first tried an empanada at the Farmers market, it was early, I was hungry, there was meat wrapped in dough. Really, where can you go wrong! It’s pretty much the Spanish/Portuguese/South American version of the Cornish Pasty that I grew up with and certainly love.. a little spicier though. I’m sure most cultures have them in some form or another.
I’ve recently been re-introduced to them and decided to give my own a try. The dough recipe came from a friend so I’m afraid it’s not mine to share.
All the dry ingredients are put in the bowl and mixed together. That’s flour, salt, baking powder and lots of cumin.
Cut into that is butter and cream cheese, until it’s somewhere between pea-sized and breadcrumb like.
White vinegar and iced water is added and the dough is formed. Wrap it up and put it in the fridge. It’s a very soft dough, you want it cool to work with.
While it’s chilling I took the opportunity to make the filling. I wanted lamb, it’s something I don’t eat very often but I love the flavour of. First off I sautéed my onions in bacon fat until they were starting to caramelise, the garlic was added and when that was coming along nicely I added the minced meat.
When the meat was browned off and cooked through I took it off the heat and strained it, much as I love all the flavours that the fat imparts we need the mixture to be not too wet to be able to seal the empanadas properly.
Back in the pan I add the tomato paste and the spices, some fresh ground cumin and mustard seeds and then some paprika. Taste and season accordingly. Then, because I didn’t plan ahead properly I spread it on a tray and put it in the fridge. The filling needs to be cold or it will make the dough very hard to work with.
That’s chilling, time to press out the dough. I weigh it out into 2oz balls, storing them in the fridge as soon as they’re rounded. Then taking a few out at a time I line the tortilla press with parchment. Slightly flatten the ball.
Add another sheet of parchment.
I found that a good size was almost the size of my hand, it came to roughly the final knuckle on my fingers. Stack them with parchment in between them and store them in the fridge (are you getting the picture that the dough needs to be kept cool?).
If you make extra (as I am prone to do) you can keep it in the fridge for about a week, or freeze it and defrost at will!
Brush with egg wash and place a spoonful of filling in the centre.
Fold it over and press down firmly to seal, make sure the filling stays in a tight ball in the centre.
To be double-y sure that it’s sealed go around the very edge with a fork. Especially if your filling is remotely juicy.
Time to start folding! Pinch out the corner, fold it over and press it down firmly.
That will have now formed it’s own little “corner” as before, pinch it out a little, fold it over and press it down, repeat all the way around. Try and keep as semi-circular as possible.
Finally, you’ll have this end bit sticking out, fold it back over itself and press down firmly.
Arrange on a tray and egg wash.
Now, this is where you can get clever, if you par-bake them now, until they’re a pale golden, then whenever you want fresh empanadas you can throw them in the oven and they’re not even 10 minutes away. You can freeze them either raw or par-baked.
Or you can just bake them all the way through!
I needed to add more spice to my filling, I was a little cautious, still tasted good though, especially with the spice in the dough!