Argentine empanadas made by a Latvian

More than two years ago I met Manuel, and his Argentine family and I was introduced for the first time to this beautiful juicy little meatpie – empanada.

It’s astonishing how my family and I had been to Argentina 10 years before and hadn’t tried it once! If I had, I probably would have passed the trip surviving only on empanadas. If you haven’t tried them, you haven’t lived!

If you reside in a country where they aren’t available, like Latvia, I’ll give you my first time “from-scratch” empanadas recipe, so you can try this fantastic food. My oh, did they come out tasty!

The recipe I got was one from the book of Francis Mallmann of his famous “Siete Fuegos” book, but as I can’t go out of the house, I substituded some ingredients for the dough and the filling is my own recipe.

Empanadas for one.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DOUGH

  • 30g UNSALTED BUTTER
  • 250ml WATER
  • 15g SALT
  • 450g (+ 20g extra if necessary) FLOUR

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

  • EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL for cooking
  • 500g BEEF
  • 1 small ONION
  • 1 small LEEK
  • 1 small CARROT
  • 1 medium TOMATO
  • 1 small BELL PEPPER
  • 1 tsp CUMIN SEEDS or GROUND CUMIN
  • 1 tsp CORIANDER SEEDS or GROUND CORIANDER
  • 1 small DRIED or FRESH CHILLI (optional if you like a slight spicy kick)
  • 1 BAY LEAF
  • FRESH HERBS like THYME and ROSEMARY (if you have any)
  • 1 tsp TOMATO PASTE
  • SALT, PEPPER
  • 1 splash RED WINE (optional)
  • 2 BOILED EGGS

PREPARING THE DOUGH

Put the water to a boil, add the 30g of butter and 15g of salt and stir until it has completely disolved in the hot water. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool to room temperature.

Prepare a bowl to mix the melted butter with water and the flour.

When the liquid has cooled, get a bigger bowl, pour the liquid in and start slowly adding the flour and mixing it by hand, or by mixer if you have it. I indicated 450g flour as a minimum, add any extra flour until you get a solid dough ball that doesn’t stick and doesn’t absorb any more flour.

Roll our the dough on a floured surface, this part should be very easy now if you put enough flour. The best thickness is about 3mm, not too thin and not too thick.

You can cut circles by hand, or try to find some gadget in your kitchen that is round and has a diameter of about 12 cm, this will make for two bite-sized empanadas, I wouldn’t recommend smaller. I used the tap of an 80plus coffeee can, and worked amazingly well!

When you are done with making the dough circles, take some baking paper to separate them and stack them on top of eachother. You can see how I used it in the photo above in the upper right-hand corner. When you are done with all the dough, leave them in the fridge to cool. You can also freeze some of the dough circles for next time!

PREPARING THE FILLING

Finely chop up the carrot, onion and leek and sauté them with olive oil in a medium size pot on a medium heat (we don’t want to burn them), until they have softened.

Add the beef, turn up the heat just a bit, and stir constantly breaking up the meat in small pieces.

When the beef has browned, add the finely chopped bell pepper and tomato, the aromatic herbs – the bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, or the herbs of your choice – and all the dry spices – cumin, coriander, pepper.

Pour in the wine, if you want to use it, at this point and turn up the heat to help the alcohol to evaporate.

Cover the pot and cook it for an hour at a low-medium heat, make sure it doesn’t dry out, add a bit of water or meat/vegetable stock to give it moisture if it seems to stick to the bottom of the pot.

After cooking it for an hour, give it a taste and add salt to taste.

In a small pot boil two eggs.

Do you know what the best method is to get the perfect hardboiled egg each time? Put the eggs in cold water in the pot and put them on the stovetop with a lid. When the water has just started to boil, turn off the heat and leave the eggs to sit in the hot water with the lid on (don’t take the lid off!) for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, put the eggs in cold water and peel when they are at an acceptable temperature to the touch.

After the meat has cooked, leave it to cool down to room temperature.

When it is all cool, chop up the eggs and mix them in the meat filling. At this point you can also put some raisins and some olives, for an extra taste, if you have some.

CLOSING THE EMPANADAS

Take the dough circle in your palm, and put a spoonfull of the filling, make sure you leave enough space on the borders to close it all.

Prepare a small bowl with tepid water. You can use your index finger to put some water on the side of the dough to close it more easily.
Here is a wonderful video to see how to close the empanadas.

Oil a baking tray and put the ready empanadas there before cooking.

Turn on the oven at about 180 degrees Celcius and be sure it is completely heated before you but the empanadas to cook!

Here are my little ones!

Cook the empanadas for 12-15 min until they are light brown outside. Serve them hot, or room temperature.

And the ones you don’t bake immediately you can freeze, it is the perfect way to have a quick apetizer or meal for next time.

About

Graduate in Gastronomic Sciences, Q Arabica Grader, WSET L2 in wine. Obsessed with cooking new recipes, I love visiting producers and travel for food!

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