Starting with the staples

Immediately after hitting ‘publish’ on my first post, I thought, “Oh dear. Where to start?!”. With so many different foods that I tried, and even more that I didn’t, choosing the first focus was shaping up to be a challenge.

So, like every methodical, organised, borderline OCD thinker, I wrote a list. A list with sub headers of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, and the great associated foods. First came Argentina, and top of that list for me (before steak even!) were the hearty, little pastries, that are a staple of any Argentinian diet…empanadas.

On every street corner, of any big city, little town, or marketplace, empanadas are the daily staple. Especially in Argentina, empanadas are commonplace in society, with so many different fillings and at low cost. Commonly, empanadas are filled with meat, cheese and onion, or sweetcorn (choclo), but we also discovered the deli-styles!

What better food to begin this project with, than the simple but delicious staple food of South America. This was the first time I had made my own pastry of any kind, so needless to say, I was nervous. On the other hand, if I could master the dough, the staple of the staple, a whole world of empanada possibilities would lie at my feet.

So after a little research, and a little experimentation, here is the recipe I went for…

Empanadas with a chimichurri dipping sauce.

For the dough (makes 10-15 medium sized empanadas):

  • 16 oz plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1 egg

Mix the flour and the salt together in a bowl. I decided to use a food processor after this, so if you have one, I highly recommend it. Put the flour mixture into the food processor, and add the rest of the ingredients. I was unsure of the quantities whilst doing this, so I added them gradually, but I was just being cautious! Mix the ingredients together until the dough becomes firm, fluffy and textured. Group the dough together in a ball, and leave in the fridge for half an hour. Now it’s time to make your fillings…

For meat filling:

  • 250g minced/ground beef
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of cumin (to taste)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika (to taste)
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1/4 tsp of “Very Lazy” red chillies (optional)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
Lightly fry the onion in butter until soft. Meanwhile, mix the beef together in a bowl with the cumin, paprika and oregano. I added a tiny amount of red chilli, just to give it some bite, but its all down to preference. Once the onions are ready, add the beef mixture, season, and cook through until brown. Leave to cool, and mix through the spring onions.
Once the filling is ready, get out the ball of dough from the fridge and roll out evenly. Use a 4 inch circular pastry cutter, and cut out as many circles as possible. Note that the dough needs to be thick enough to hold the filling without bursting, so don’t stretch it out too thin!
Place a small spoonful of filling onto one half of the circle, and fold over the pastry to create a semi-circular parcel. Gently seal the parcel around the edge and use a fork to create a little presentation.
Set the oven at 200°C. Place the empanadas onto a lined baking tray, and bake for 20-25 mins, until light brown and firm. Leave to cool, and then enjoy!

 

Chimichurri dipping sauce:
Chimichurri is a signature blend of oil, garlic and herbs, that is common in Argentinian cuisine. Chimichurri can be used as a marinade for meats, or an accompaniment to a meal. A common misconception is that chimichurri is a hot, spicy sauce, when most of the time Argentinians prefer to have it more mild, and have a separate hot salsa. I decided to take a basic recipe for chimichurri from the web [http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chimichurri/] but make use my own measurements and replace the red wine vinegar with balsamic (as that’s what we have lots of in our house!). Go with your own tastes, but here’s mine:
  • 100ml of olive oil
  • 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 4/5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (fresh is preferable)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes (to taste)
Peel and crush the garlic cloves, and mix together with the olive oil. Add the balsamic vinegar, to taste. Sprinkle in the the herbs, chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Put in a sealed container and shake well. Refrigerate or serve immediately (this sauce is best consumed within one day).
 
So there you have it, a simple, but different snack or appetizer. Completely Argentinian, but both empanadas and chimichurri can be modified and reinvented into any style. Now that I know how to make the dough, you can be sure that there will be many more empanada recipes to come!
 
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3 responses to “Starting with the staples

  1. Make these again please! Saturday 26th November

    They look delicious! I’ve had pineapple ones here in Mexico, not a patch on Argentina!

  2. Pingback: Tito’s Peruvian Restaurant | Machu Kitchen·

  3. Pingback: Spinach and Ricotta Empanadas | Machu Kitchen·

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