I love baking, and even more, I love eating baked goods. Freshly baked bread is always a good idea, but if you make a pastry with a new filling inside, it’s even better! Coming from a Russian family, one of my favorite treats as a child was my grandmother’s piroshki. She is always making them with potatoes and serves them with a pile of sugar to dip. As a big part of the Russian cuisine coming from poverty food, that is an excellent example of something simple, comforting, and delicious!
I was introduced to empanadas by the Argentian part of my husband’s family, and It was just the beginning of our love story; the empanadas became a regular guest on our table. You bake, you freeze, and you have a fantastic dinner within a couple of minutes. What can be better than that!
Empanadas are a type of filled pastries usually baked or fried. The name empanada is coming from the Spanish word ׳empanar׳, to wrap or caught in bread. The empanadas, originally are coming from Galicia, Spain. Their first mention is in a Catalan cookbook from the 15th century, ‘Libre del Coch’ by Robert de Nola. The book is considered to be one of the Catalan kitchen’s milestones, containing recipes from the Catalan, Italian, French, and Arabian cultures. In the book, empanadas are mentioned as fish-filled pastries.
Many cultures have their own filled pastries, like the Russian piroshki, that are baked in the oven or at the pan filled with potatoes or an egg salad. The Indian deep-fried Samosa, filled with various curry style vegetables. The Tatar Chebureki, usually filled with minced meat. The Middle Eastern baked Sambusak that is traditionally filled with cheese and many more.
The empanadas spread around the world together with the Spaniards and where warmly adopted; they became an essential part of many local culinary traditions.
In Chile, empanadas are an essential part of the national cuisine. Many Chileans consider this to be their most representative dish, commonly consumed in large quantities during the country’s national day celebrations. Empanada de Pino is the most common one, baked in the oven and filled with diced or ground beef sauteed with onions and spices, half of a hard-boiled egg, an olive, and raisins.
In some countries, like Belize and Nicaragua, the empanadas that are also called panadas, are made with masa, corn dough and stuffed with fish, chicken or beans. They are usually deep-fried and sold as street food.
In Argentina, empanadas are also a very common dish, often served during parties and festivals as a starter or a main course. You will often find shops specializing in freshly-made empanadas around the country with many flavors and fillings.
One of the things I love the most about living in Costa Rica is the fantastic people you get to know on the way. Spending the quarantine in the middle of the jungle has its benefits; Getting to know the community and the neighbors. So when the Chilean and the Nicaraguan traditions met over the table, it meant only one thing – EMPANADAS.
The main differences between the two empanadas are the dough – one with wheat flour and the other with corn. The second difference is the way of preparation one deep-fried and one cooked in the oven. Regarding the fillings, you can either go crazy or stay reliable to the tradition – that’s on you.
Traditional Chillean empanadas by Paula.
Ingredients for 15 empanadas –
For the dough –
3 cups (500 g) of white flour.
3/4 cup of beer (100 ml) at room temperature.
1/2 cup of melted butter (50 g) or 3 tbsp of olive oil.
1 tsp of salt.
1 egg or a couple of spoons of water instead.
For the Filling –
1 kg of minced meat or pulled beef (a Brisket or a Chuck Roast will be the best).
4-5 onions medium size, cut into small pieces.
1 whole onion and 2-3 garlic heads if you are going for the pulled beef version.
4 boiled eggs, each cut to 4 pieces.
15 olives, one per empanada (Calamata olives, or any other variety of your favorite).
15 raisins, 1 per empanada.
1/2 tsp of paprika.
2-3 chopped garlic heads.
1/2 tsp of cumin.
1/2 tsp of Merken, smoked chili pepper traditional to the Chilean cuisine. It is a dried, smoked red chili pepper ground and sometimes mixed with toasted coriander seeds and salt. It can be replaced with smoked paprika or another spice you have and love.
Pinch of salt.
Pinch of black pepper.
An egg for brushing.
Some butter for frying the onions.
Let’s DO IT –
Mix all the dough ingredients, check it for elasticity, if needed, add a bit more flour (if sticky) or water (too stiff), it needs to be easy to work with.
Let the dough rest for 30-40 min outside the fridge.
Meanwhile, cook the meat. If you are going for the pulled beef, cook the beef with a whole onion, 2-3 heads of garlic, and a bit of spice for 45 min in a pressure cooker. Remove the onion and the garlic when the meat is ready.
Fry onions with butter on a pan, add some juice from the meat if needed. Add in the pulled beef or the minced meat and fry together. Add paprika, garlic, cumin, Merken or smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
Make 15 equal balls from the dough.
Flatten each ball using a rolling pin or a bottle and a bit of flour.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
In each empanada put a big spoon of meat without the juice, 1/4 of an egg, one raisin, and one olive.
Wet your fingers with a bit of water and pass over the edges of the empanada. Close each empanada to half and stick the edges together.
Brush each empanada with en egg.
Make a hole in the empanadas with a fork or a knife for the steam to go out.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Check to see if it is turning brown after 20 minutes; they should be golden when ready.
The empanadas can be frozen and reheated in the oven before serving.
Best to eat with an Algo Picante or Tahini dips, but the most important – with a good company.