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A small pastry which can be claimed by many countries all over South America, from Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Peru. But none of these cross over to Greece, although we do have something similar which we call Bourekia, but this is not good enough for some Chileans I know who say “You are a nice girl, really, but you CANNOT make Empanadas. You are NOT Chilean”.

Well I was on a mission to prove them wrong. I was perfectly able to make such a simple little pastry….simple? Well apparently not. There are so many rules with empanadas. Factors to do with the pastry, amount of filling, how much olive and egg, size and their shape. Ok that is fine, I can research, I can youtube it to watch and learn particular techniques such as the repulgue (the plating on the rim).

The name comes from the word EMPANAR which means to wrap or coat in bread. They can be baked or fried, and this determines the type of pastry (tapas) that is required. Traditional tapas are made with flour, water and lard, so not really for the vegetarian, who would have to prepare their own tapas.

There are many types of Empanadas including the traditional Carne, made of beef which is then chopped very finely, like mince but with much more flavour; queso and jamon (ham an cheese); chicken; spinach and cheese…..the list goes on now and really anything and everything can be put inside. They can be made as a sweet with fruits inside. In Uruguay actually they are famous for their sweet Empanada which is filled with quince, dulce de leche and chocolate and is then covered in sugar or the pastry is brushed with apple jam.

But today I needed to start from the beginning. Carne con huevo y aceituna (meat with egg and olive). I had to perfect the most common style before moving onto interesting filling. There are many things that need to focus on. 1) Getting the pastry right. It needs to be thick, not soggy and similar to a shortcrust;
2) The filling needs to be balances, and this means the correct amount of spices, then portion of egg and olive for the amount of meat filling; and
3) The repulgue needs to be neat, tight and make the empanadas look pretty.

Once the pastry was made, which is arguably the most important part of the process, I think, then the filling is prepared and then each item is laid out as if in a production line for the filing to be completed. The pastry should be rolled out to about 2mm, this will give it enough thickness to cover the filling and keep it in without breaking, but also is not so thick that you end up with bites of only pastry.

A spoonful of meat, but not too much, there needs to be ample pastry for the repulgue. Only one small slice of egg, and half a GREEN olive. Many countries also add currants, but I prefer to not mix sweetness with my meat.

The repulgue is the twisting on the edge of the pastry. It is not easy, let me tell you. I watched many youtube videos to learn how to do it and then even after that it still took a bit of practice. Overall though, I think I did well. (My Latino-ness is increasing by the minute!)

Before baking they are glazed over with eggwash and then baked for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. They should be golden brown when they come out.

Eating them is the fun part FINALLY. It is not a quick afternoon task, it does require a good couple of hours to prepare, fold and cook them all. I made around 50 or so, many of which I gave away, cause there are only so many you can eat, however everyone who received them was very thankful and said they tasted good.

BUT the test is what a Latino thinks…..unfortunately, my friend who said ‘I could never make them’ was not around to try them, so ‘the Peruvian boyfriend’ was quizzed on how good they are. Some might argue this is a bit subjective, as he would say they are good either way. WRONG. The first time I attempted them, I followed a silly recipe I was given which required me to boil the meat and ended in disaster. He sweetly told me how much I had failed. This time though, he gave them the thumbs up and even took left overs home.

Mission accomplished.


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