Empanadas are to South American culture what beers are to Europe: every country has their their own version which is considered the best and only version, and most definitely the original one. Chileans traditionally serve them on Independence Day, September 18, but in my mind any day has the potential to be an empanadas day. They are firmer and less flaky than Cornish pasties and don’t break, making them the perfect finger (or rather, hand) food.
When my mother-in-law comes to visit us, the whole family is excited at the prospect of an endless supply of empanadas: beef, egg, olives and raisins, wrapped in a thin bread dough. As for the kids, we have a complicated code of various shapes (triangle=no raisins, etc.) to cater for the different taste requirements.
The following recipe will make ca. 30 empanadas, enough to feed 6-8 people (in our case it’s enough for one dinner and a snack the next day)
- 4 onions, very finely diced
- 750g of beef (topside or flank)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 eggs
- 20 black olives, washed and drained
- ca. 40 raisins, soaking in water
Dice the beef into small pieces of half a centimetre or less. Heat a little oil in a wide casserole dish and soften the onions. Close the lid to keep the moisture in and stir occasionally until they are soft and golden.
In a large frying pan, heat a tbs of oil and fry the meat until lightly browned. Once the meat is ready, add it to the onions and add the spices. Mix well and leave it to cool down.
In a separate saucepan, boil the eggs for 8 minutes. Leave them to cool, then peel and cut into slices.
- 1 kg plain flour
- 125g lard
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 glass of white wine
- 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
In a small saucepan, mix 100ml of water and the lard, leaving it to melt. On a clean work surface, mix 2 eggs and the rest of the ingredients with the melted lard and water mix, adding water if necessary. Keep kneading until you have a firm dough which hardly tears when stretched. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200C.
Split the dough into 30 pieces which you roll into small balls. Flatten a ball to create a circle of roughly 20cm diameter. Will one half of it with a portion of the meat, a slice of egg, 2 raisins and an olive. Seal the rim with a little beaten egg and fold over, pressing the edges to close them. Cut off the edges and fold them, before brushing the top with a little more of the beaten egg. Put the empanada on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.
Once the tray is full, place it in the oven and bake on the bottom shelf for 20 minutes or until they have a golden finish.
Enjoy with friends, family and – most importantly – a glass of Chilean red. You deserve it.
For more South American recipes you should take a look at Ana Sofia Peláez’ blog hungrysofia.com: her enticing photographs and inspiring descriptions of Latin food will make you gasp for more chilli. Or a trip to Cuba!