Empanadas. The delight of many but the terror of home cooks. See, I cook, I rarely bake. When I make something browned in the oven, it is usually because it is braised.
So, combining baking and cooking seems like the next step in my repertoire right? And that is where empanadas come in.
With a savoury sauce and buttery crust, where can I go wrong, right? Well, for one thing, always be prepared when making these . . . I was not. A tall oddly shaped glass became my rolling pin and corn flour became my covering for the counter (I ran out of wheat flour . . .).
Empanadas were brought to South America by the settling spanish. The conquistadors not only came to conquer, but to bring over their working-class fare. The empanada, also found in Spain and the Philippines, is essentially a pastry stuffed with meat — perfect for the working man. As the Spanish integrated themselves in to the Argentinian population, the small packet of deliciousness became so well loved that eventually there was a day created in its honour.
Varying in each country all over South America, the fillings generally consist of meat and vegetables, but their spiciness, sweetness, and time they are served at varies with the region. In Bolivia, for example, the empanadas are sweeter than the Argentinian variety and are usually only served in the morning.
Parcelling meat in pastry packages is a popular thing to do all over the world, from the Italian calzones to Cornish pastries. I was happy with how my own little parcels turned out. I hummed away to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s song ‘Home’ and filled the little dough packets. They were not only a great meal, but made a delightful snack as well. And besides, we all need a little Argentinian spice in our lives from time to time.
3 c. flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening
1/2 c. cold water, add 1 or 2 tbs. more if needed
2 onions, chopped finely
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. pitted green olives, chopped finely
1 tsp. salt, plus more as needed
1. Mix all the dry ingredients for the dough in a bowl and cut in the butter until it is a coarse crumbly mess. Pour in the cold water and stir until the dough is thoroughly mixed. If more water is needed, add it 1 tbs. at a time. Place on a floured surface and knead for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, optimally an hour.
2. While the dough is resting in the fridge, place a tbs. of olive oil in a large pot on the stove. Add the onions and garlic and saute until slightly brown, about three minutes. Add the spices and herbs and cook for another minute. Add the lean ground beef and continue to stir until the meat is completely cooked, about seven minutes. Add the olives and raisins and continue to stir until everything is cooked thoroughly and the meat mix has no liquid in the bottom left. Add a tablespoon of flour to thicken it if needed.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Remove the dough from the oven and roll it to a 1/8-inch thick on a floured surface, such as your countertop. Divide the dough in to 8-inch round portions. In the middle of each round, place a spoonful of the meat mix. Dip your finger in water and run it along the edge of the pastry, making it moist. Fold the dough over the filling so it makes a crescent moon shape. Seal the edges by pressing your fingertips in them to make scalloped sides.
4. Place the pastries evenly on a baking stone or sheet. If you desire shiny tops, paint over the tops with beaten eggs. Insert them in to the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until browned on top.
Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Listen to this song (‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros).