Recipes,  Vegetarian

Vegetarian empanadas: Spanish creation, South American staple

Hi everyone!

What a night(mare) at Wembley yesterday! It couldn’t look more appropriate, almost like a fairy tale: playing an European final at home after 55 years, taking the lead, the crowd continuously buzzing… But, dearest friends, this is Italy. When it comes to playing big games or under pressure they are absolutely unrivalled. No matter when you read it. So, congratulations to all my Italian foodie friends. In particular: My Pinch of Italy, Ericalicious and the guys from Il Principe Deli in Oxford. Tanti auguri, ragazzi.

In parallel to Italy’s success, another national team won a major tournament right at the other side of the Atlantic ocean. Argentina lifted the Copa America -and so Messi did after so many attempts!- as they beat Brazil 1-0. The albiceleste hadnĀ“t won it since 1993, plus they have been runner ups in five out of the last seven editions. This time, however, seemed like everything was prepared for their victory: a final in Maracana, against hosts and biggest rivals and on 10th July, just one day after celebrating their National day. Therefore, I felt the occasion called me to put on the table one of Argentina’s most iconic dish: empanadas.

Let me explain you something relevant. Empanadas were brought over from the Spanish during the colonisation era, so there are no doubts they originate from Spain. The ancients invented them as a meat preservation method and eat it after a few days. Obviously, this has changed through the years and now they are a tremendously popular dish in all South America-as well as Spain. In Argentina, minced meat ones are hugely acclaimed given the good quality of their beef and pork. The seasoning, using mainly cumin and paprika, makes the rest.

The first time I made Argentinian-style empanadas I followed Sandy’s recipe for their chicken-flavoured ones. It was such a success that both me and my girlfriend agreed to repeat. This time, I cooked a vegetarian version inspired by Carolina’s recipe and it was just as delicious. One day, I will find myself eating one of these while walking on the streets of Buenos Aires. It is my next travel goal because I am particularly interested in tracking the steps of the thousands of Europeans that once settled in the city. But, in the meantime, and since COVID-19 keeps complicating things, I will try to feel close to such a wonderful place by cooking them at home.


INGREDIENTS (MAKES 13)

For the pasties:

  • Plain flour (500 g)
  • Lard (100 g)
  • Salt (1 tbsp)
  • Water (250 ml)

For the filling:

  • Onion (1)
  • Red pepper (1)
  • Aubergine (1)
  • Courgettes (1 big or 2 small)
  • Mushrooms (150 g)
  • Boiled eggs (2)
  • Green olives (a handful)
  • Paprika (1 teaspoon)
  • Cumin (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Oregano (1 teaspoon)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

DIRECTIONS FOR COOKING

  1. First and foremost is the pasties’ dough. In a bowl, add the flour, the salt and the lard. Pour the water gradually and mix all together until you achieve a soft, elastic dough. Shape it in a ball and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2. Add some olive oil to a deep pan such a wok. Finely chop the onion and simmer for a couple of minutes. At the same time, boil your eggs for 10-15 minutes. After that, remove them from the heat and cool down with cold water in a separate recipient.

3. Once the onion is cooked, finely chop the rest of the vegetables, tip into the pan and cook for about 10-15 minutes. You may have to add more oil and increase the heat for some time. Also, add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir frequently.

4. Season with the spices, blend and check the taste so you can add more if you wish. Finall,y add the eggs and the olives (both chopped), stir and your filling will be ready.

5. Cut small portions of the dough, shape in a little ball and stretch them with a rolling pin. They should be about 3 mm thick. Put one to one and a half tablespoon of filling in the centre, fold the pasty over and seal it. To do this, join the ends and make small twists all along (this is known in Argentina as repulgue). Alternatively, you can use a fork.

6. Line your empanadas in an oven tray covered with baking paper. Apply egg wash on all of them and bake at 200 Celsius for 30 minutes.

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