Empanadas….What can I say…probably one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Especially when bought from a lovely Abuelita on the streets of Buenos Aires, or ordered from the local bar, with a beer, for breakfast at 10am; breakfast of champions!
A recent catch-up with a dear friend, that has been living in Argentina for the last few years, got me reminiscing about the food I tried while I was there. Aside from empanandas; the Asados, Chimichurri, Choripan, and Dulce de Leche, were enough to turn me into a well ’rounded’ foodie. The Argeys certainly know how to relax, and eat well; you wouldn’t expect how well they are able to party after all of this…I guess that’s why you don’t go out until 3am.
The recipes here are far removed from anything typically Argentinian, but since I’ve been on a bit of a budget, I used what I had on hand; leftover christmas ham, and roasted pumpkin being the main culprits. You don’t need to make your own pastry, store bought shortcrust pastry will work perfectly, but, if you have time and you don’t mind a bit of kitchen labour, this pastry recipe is very easy to work with and turns out beautifully. I split the recipe into two bowls and added smoked paprika to one and nutmeg to the other, but, apart from giving the pastry different colours, I couldn’t really taste the spices; so i haven’t included that method here.
Check out my Roasted Pumpkin, Pistachio and Ricotta Dip; perfect for your leftover roasted pumpkin.
Makes about 30
160g butter, cold, cut into cubes
250g plain flour
250g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
olive oil, for kneading
1 egg, whisked with a splash of water, for brushing
Ham, Cheese, Egg and Olive Filling
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
50g olives, roughly chopped
100g ham, roughly chopped
100g tasty cheese, grated
2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, roughly chopped
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Pumpkin, Basil and Ricotta Filling
1 butternut pumpkin, skin cut off, seeds cut out, cut into large chunks
4 cloves garlic, skin on, whole
salt and pepper
white wine vinegar
large handful of fresh basil, finely sliced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
125g firm ricotta, crumbled
2 tbs parmesan, finely grated
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
For the pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flours, salt and butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour, working until mixture resembles sand. Add the water and use a spoon to mix until it starts to come together into a dough. Turn out onto a clean, oiled work surface and knead for 10-15mins. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 2 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
For the pumpkin filling, place the pumpkin and garlic cloves in a roasting tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Place in the oven and cook for about 45mins or until very tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Turn the oven off.
In a medium bowl, combine 300g of the roasted pumpkin and 2 of the garlic cloves, squeezed from their skins. Mash with a fork until smooth. Add the basil, sunflower seeds, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine but don’t mix too much, as you still want to have chunks of ricotta throughout. Store in the fridge until needed.
For the ham filling, in a small frying pan, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Fry the onion, stirring, for about 8mins, or until soft, add the garlic and fry for a further 2mins. Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool for 10mins. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Store in the fridge until needed.
To fold the empanadas. Working with half the dough at a time, on a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry to approximately 3mm thickness. Use a round cutter, about 12cm across, to cut circles out. Keep them covered with cling wrap as you go to avoid them drying out.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Place a heaped tablespoon of mixture into the middle of a circle of dough. With wet fingers, moisten the edges of the circle. Fold the pastry over the mixture to make a half moon shape. Press the edges together to seal. Use a fork to make a pattern on the edge, or use your fingers to fold along the edge for an alternative pattern. Or do whatever pattern you like.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Evenly space the empanadas out on the trays and brush with the egg mixture. Bake for about 30-40 mins, or until golden and crisp on the edges.
Serve with tomato chutney or caramelised onion on the side. You can find a recipe for caramelised onion here.