Spanish Night – Beef Empanadas

Tonight, I once again stepped out of my comfort zone of sweet treats and baking to create another dinner. Unlike the eggplant, this is most definitely not an appetiser! Well, I mean, it could be, but the size and the amount this recipe makes definitely makes a hearty, filling meal.

Tonight – was beef empanada night.

Never in my life have I cooked something like this. I always order empanadas when I go out for tapas, but never considered making it from scratch. And I mean really from scratch – pastry and all!

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If you’re a dear and loyal reader of my blog, you can probably guess where this recipe came from. Anyone guess Smitten Kitchen? You would in fact be 100% right, congratulations!

Below are two options for cooking the empanadas – deep-fry or bake. To be honest, I knew straight away that I wanted to deep-fry them (perfect morsels of golden and crunch goodness? Yes please!) However, I soon realised I don’t have a cooking thermometer which is required if you want to deep-fry the empanadas perfectly. So baking it was.

And then, because the dinner plate looked a little bit empty with just empanadas, we also prepared a lovely garden salad to go with.

And you know what? Baking them turned out fantastically – still golden and exceptionally crunchy – who knew?

Word of caution: if you don’t have time to be fiddly and messy, save this dish for another night. Especially make sure you have time if you choose to make your own pastry – though utterly satisfying and delicious, the dough was very sticky and quite difficult to manoeuvre and such.

Although – when you make your own pastry too it is a great accomplishment to see an entire meal cooked from scratch, so definitely give it a go!

(Makes a dozen 6-inch empanadas)

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1. Filling

Ingredients

2 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped into bits
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 pound ground beef
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped olives (I used kalamata)
400g can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons juice, and chopped
1 package frozen empanada pastry disks, thawed (or homemade, recipe follows)

About 4 cups vegetable oil and a deep-fat thermometer (if deep-frying)
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water (if baking)

Steps 

1. Cook onion and olive oil in a pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened.

2. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink (about 4 minutes).

3. Add olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes with reserved juice, then cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in hard boiled egg and spread on a plate to cool.

5. Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a surface, then roll out an empanada disk on plastic wrap to measure about 6 inches.

6. Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture on disk. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp with a fork, then make more empanadas in same manner.

If frying: Preheat oven to 90°C with rack in middle.

If baking: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 200°C.
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Deep-frying instructions:

1. Heat 3/4 inch vegetable oil in a deep pan over medium heat until it registers 180°C on thermometer.

2. Fry empanadas, 2 or 3 at a time, turning once, until crisp and golden, 4 to 6 minutes per batch.

3. Transfer to a shallow baking pan and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 180°C between batches.

Baking instructions: 

1. Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes.

2. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes.

3. Serve warm or at room temperature.

2. Dough 

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons salt
240g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Steps

1. Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated.

3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together.

4. Form dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total.

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VERDICT

Wow. Can I just say, wow. Watching the empanadas rise in the oven I was starting to sweat a little. They didn’t look particularly amazing and I thought I had completely failed.

 However, fail, I did not. The empanadas turned out beautifully, taste wise anyway (which is where it counts, right?)

Rich, golden and flaky pastry with a beautifully crunchy texture and a real palate awakening filling with beautifully exotic spices. You can really taste the cumin which gives it a gorgeous flavour.

This is a really great dish for a tapas night in with the girls (or guys), or even just as an every night dinner for the family. Pair it with a salad and glass of red (juice for the kids, of course) and you’ve created a delicious and different meal.

Good luck!

p.s Apoligies for the not so great picture quality tonight! I obviously need to work on my night-time photography skills! That and the empanadas themselves weren’t entirely aesthetically pleasing ;)

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16 thoughts on “Spanish Night – Beef Empanadas

  1. Nice,but have you tried making empanadas with rice inside?it taste so delicious,it’s one of the food I miss so much is south America.I love your other version of it,will try it someday.

    • This is my first try at empanada making – but I am sure rice would taste amazing as well, maybe with veggies as well and make it a vegetarian dish or something. Will have to try, thanks for the idea!

  2. I had no idea eggs went into empanada mix. Looks yummy – don’t be so harsh on your photography skills!

    This post made me smile… as a waitress at a Spanish and Mexican restaurant we had empanadas as a new weekly special. When telling my first table about them I was incredibly nervous and ended up saying “empana-nanas” (like bana-nanas). Needless to say the couple laughed, and to this day I have a soft spot for the pastries :)

    • Oh wow – thanks for reading all the way through! Didn’t know people actually did haha :)

      Haha that’s quite cute! Empanadas are always my favourite thing to order when I eat tapas – they’re too yummy!

  3. I love empanadas and have a stash of filling in the freezer leftover from the last, exceptionally large, batch! In fact you’ve just reminded me about it. Will dig it out at the weekend – half way to making empanadas already. Love it!

  4. Those DO look delicious, but I agree – taste is the most important part :)

    I’ve recently tried to be braver in the kitchen when it comes to making dough, so I’ll have to give these a try soon. Thanks for sharing!

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