Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Beef Empanadas (Empanadas de Carne)

When I was in Argentina, it seemed that at every gathering we went to, we had empanadas. They're similar to little pasties, filled with minced beef, green olives, chopped hard-boiled egg and onions. But the pastry is different to our shortcrust, puff or filo pastry and kind of a cross between all three. It's thin and flaky but nowhere near as brittle or crisp as filo, and it's paler, softer and easier to work with, too. 

beef empanada cut in half
Beef empanada, cut in half - check out that thin, crispy pastry

You can make the pastry yourself but I do what my Argentine family do and buy it in, already rolled and cut into circles ready for filling and crimping. In the UK, you can buy it online (from Tom Hixson), and it's available at a number of online stores in the US. Make sure you buy the type for baking, as some empanadas can be deep-fried and use a different type of pastry.

baked empanadas
Baked empanadas
I watched my sister-in-law make these, and followed the recipe as closely as I could once I was home, adding a little less salt and using sweet red peppers. It makes a big difference and gives a really authentic Argentine flavour. One top tip before I give you the recipe. You do need to chop everything quite finely - you want to pack a bit of everything into the empanadas, and they're smaller than a regular Cornish pasty so chop everything finely to pack more flavours in each one. 

Bite into one of these babies and you get crisp, flaky pastry and then juicy beef, egg and a sweetness from the peppers followed by the briny hit from the green olive. They've become a hit for us since we got back home, and I can't stop making them. I hope you like them.  

empanadas before baking
Filled and crimped empanadas, ready for baking

Argentinian Empanadas de Carne
Makes about 24 (bank on serving about 3-4 per person)
Ingredients
24 empanada wraps
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch sea salt flakes
1 large white onion, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
400g good quality, lean, beef steak mince
quarter tsp smoked paprika (or pimentón dulce)
2 pointed sweet red peppers, chopped
1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste
150ml beef stock
12-14 pitted green olives, halved 
3 large, hard-boiled eggs - peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 heaped tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Black pepper, to season

Method:
First, heat the oven to 200ºC. In a large frying pan or saucepan fry the onion in the olive oil with the pinch of salt until softened and translucent but not coloured. Add the garlic and then the steak mince. Cook, stirring, until browned and just cooked through. 

Sprinkle in the paprika and add the peppers. Stir, cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, the stock, olives, hard-boiled chopped eggs and the parsley. Taste and season with pepper and a little more salt if you think it needs it. Leave to cool. 

Take a circle of the pastry and moisten the edge of one side of it with a fingertip dipped in cold water. Put a tablespoon or two of the filling onto the pastry and fold in half to seal. You can crimp to seal either using a fork or by twisting the pastry with your fingers to give it that classic hand-crimped edge. Bake on a tray lined with greaseproof paper for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and eat while hot - the filling will be really hot so cool a little before giving to children. 

Freezing tip: the empanada wraps are usually supplied frozen - defrost the quantity you need (mine come in packs of 12 wraps), fill and bake as usual. As these are made with hard-boiled egg I wouldn't suggest freezing them once baked (although you can freeze cooked empanadas that don't have the hard-boiled egg or the olives inside). What you can do is make up a batch of the filling (minus the egg and olives), and freeze. When you want to make quick empanadas, defrost the frozen beef filling and stir in the chopped hard-boiled eggs and green olives. Fill and bake as usual. 

Have you ever had empanadas? Do you fancy making them? 



beef filling empanada
Filling for empanadas de carne, before the eggs and olives are added

I've submitted this recipe to the Tuesday's Table link-up hosted by the blog Love in the Kitchen.


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