Moving house is a strange little ritual. We all seem to do the same thing I think. You start packing up and there’s all this stuff you completely forgot existed hidden away in drawers and shelves and closets. Things you literally haven’t thought of since you last moved so why are they still getting carted around with you? And there’s so freakin much of it. So you start throwing things out but then you get sidetracked looking through old photos for hours and forgetting you were supposed to be packing… So most of the time you end up just throwing it all in a box and taking it with you again.
Anyway, in my piles of old photos were some pics from my semester studying abroad in Argentina, which gave me the perfect excuse to avoid packing again and do some cooking instead!
While I was in Argentina I got fed super well by my Argentine ‘mama’, she sort of inspired me to get more into cooking when I think back on it. She wouldn’t mind spending all day preparing an amazing meal from scratch, homemade raviolis or walnut pesto, or these amazing salads with grated beetroot, mmm. I didn’t feel like I was missing out despite being a veggie and not eating all the dead cow feasts that they love over there. And empanadas were probably my favourite discovery – like an Argentine Cornish pasty, these little pastries are perfect for pretty much any occasion – breakfast, lunch, dinner, as a snack, served hot or cold, and it turns out they’re not too tricky to make either!
I’ve tracked down recipes for my three favourite fillings below. You could just make one at a time or a selection – I find that by the time I’m making these I might as well make a big batch as they freeze brilliantly. After shaping the pastries, just place on a baking tray in the freezer for 3-4 hours up to overnight, remove from the tray and place in a freezer bag or plastic container. When you want to eat them take out as many as you want and put them right into a hot oven, they may need a few extra minutes to bake but that’s it. Easy and fab party food too – might have to do some more for our housewarming!
For the dough:
Adapted from La cocina de Myri (makes about 12 empanada rounds or ‘tapas’)
- 250g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 100g unsalted butter, cubed
- 3-5 tbsp of water
- 1 egg or a few tbsp of milk to glaze the empanadas before baking
- Mix the flour and salt together.
- Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or food processor until you have pea-sized lumps (more top tips on making pastry here – it’s easier than you think!).
- Add the egg and water and mix until a dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into twelve smaller balls and roll each one out into a circle, about 6 inches across.
- To assemble, place a spoonful or two of filling into the middle of a circle of dough. Brush the outside edge of the dough with milk or water and fold in half. Seal the edges with a traditional ‘repulgue’ if you want to get fancy, by folding again and pushing inwards several times (watch this video for a quick demonstration).
- Brush with milk or egg for a nicely browned finish. Bake at 200C / 400F for 15-20 minutes until golden.
For the humita (creamed corn) filling:
Adapted from Vegetomania, makes about 12 empanadas
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 75g butter
- 237ml (1 cup) milk
- Flour (about 4 tbsp)
- 1 can of corn kernels (creamed if you can find them)
- 2-3 tbsp tomato paste
- 50g of pitted green olives (optional)
- 50g ricotta or parmesan cheese
- ¼ tsp paprika
- Seasoning to taste
- Saute the onion and red pepper in a bit of butter until softened.
- Add the milk and warm through, then add a bit of flour and stir until incorporated and thickened slightly. Keep adding flour, a little bit at a time, until the mixture is no longer watery but more like a thick cream sauce (if it’s too wet it will make the pastry soggy).
- Add the corn and mix until warmed through – I prefer the slightly smoother texture of creamed corn, but kernels also work ok, or you could briefly chop the corn kernels in a food processor or with a hand blender.
- Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients, seasoning to taste.
Variation: Turn this into a spinach and cheese filling by using a medium bunch of spinach (or other greens) in place of the corn and removing the red pepper, tomato paste and olives.
For the ‘meat’ filling:
Adapted from Use Real Butter and Saveur, makes about 12 empanadas
- 250g fake meat, diced mushrooms (portobellos would probably work best), crumbled tofu, or cooked lentils (a can of cooked brown lentils is my favourite option as they’re more moist than fake meat and don’t overpower the other ingredients)
- 2-3 hard-boiled eggs
- 12-24 pitted green olives, depending on your taste
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 2 onions, diced (or 1 onion and 1 shallot)
- 2 green onions / scallions
- ½ red pepper, diced (or ¼ green and ¼ red pepper)
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- ½ tsp cayenne or chilli powder
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp orégano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 tbsp tomato paste (optional but particularly good with fake meat which can be a bit dry and flavourless, I’d add a few tbsp of water or stock as well)
- Seasoning to taste
- Saute the onions, pepper and garlic in butter until softened. While this is cooking, you can hardboil your eggs in another pot.
- Add the meat substitute, spices and tomato paste if using. I’ve tried mushrooms and fake meat so far, but seen recipes with various options and I think they’ll all work ok.
- Cook for another 5 minutes or so until the flavours have combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped hardboiled egg, olives and raisins if using. Season to taste and assemble as above.
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