Most cultures have their own pastry-based snacks. As a Brit, I am a huge fan of the Cornish pasty, but people have been wrapping meat and/or veg up in pastry all over the world for centuries. Think of samosas. Turnovers. Dim sum. Dumplings. I could go on.
Enter Argentina’s contribution, the empanada. These are delicious pastry pockets stuffed full of a wide range of fillings. My local supermarket has started stocking empanada wrappers – thin circles of flaky pastry which make creating your own empanadas an absolute doddle. Just whip up your filling, place a spoonful in the circle, fold and bake!
They make a great lunch. Or a great snack. Or as part of a main meal, especially if you’re going for a buffet or tapas-style. You can make them in advance or fresh. They can be cooked straight away or frozen. So versatile!
One of these days, I will have a stab at making my own empanada pastry dough, but for now I’m happy to focus on experimenting with fillings. All of the fillings listed here will freeze. To freeze successfully, lay the raw empanadas out a baking tray (make sure they aren’t touching each other while they are freezing or they will stick together). Place in the freezer until frozen, then transfer into a freezer bag and seal. You can cook them from frozen.
1. Make your filling (see below)
2. Place a small spoonful of the filling on one half of the empanada wrapper. Leave a small gap between the filling and the edge of the wrapper. Don’t use too much, or the filling will leak out.
3. Dip a finger or small pastry brush in tepid water. Run finger/brush around the edge of the wrapper so that it will stick.
4. Carefully fold the wrapper in half. You can crimp or prick the edges with a fork if you like. It looks pretty! It can also be useful – I usually make more than one filling at a time, so I crimp one so I can tell them apart once they’re cooked.
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. If cooking from frozen, cook for 25-30 minutes, and check the food is piping hot right to the centre before eating.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is just to give you some ideas. Play around with quantities and seasoning. The benefit of an empanada is pretty much anything goes inside. Just remember to chop all ingredients finely. Unless otherwise specified, these fillings all need cooking before putting in the wrappers.
- Spicy beef – Beef mince, onion, jalapenos, tomato puree
- Creamy chicken – Chicken, leek, cream
- Chicken and olives – Chicken mince, chopped olives, onions
- Cheese and tomato – Grated cheese (mozzarella or provolone work brilliantly) and sun-dried tomatoes
- Pork and peppers – Pork mince, red and green peppers, ground cumin and coriander
- Ricotta and spinach – Cook out the spinach first so that it doesn’t release too much water
- Chorizo and cheese – Good with a tiny touch of chipotle paste
- Leek and bacon – Pine nuts are a good addition here
- Argentinian beef – Steak strips, onions, raisins, chopped hard-boiled egg
- Mexican beans – Pinto, kidney or cannelini beans, with ground cumin, coriander, tomato puree
- Squash and mushroom – This works well with blue cheese
- Breakfast – Bacon/sausage/black pudding with hard boiled egg or beans
So go ahead and experiment.
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