Spice up your next meal by going Latino and cooking up some empanadas – an easy Latin American favourite bite-sized snack that has rapidly become a world-wide craze. Typically cooked baked or fried, the word “empanada” derives from the verb “empanar,” which means “to wrap” or “to coat in bread” in Spanish and Portuguese. Most countries excel at their own version of the hand-held savoury pie with fillings that can include beef, chicken, seafood, cheese or vegetables. The perfect solution to your hunger cravings, this on-the-go quick eat can be served as an appetiser at a dinner party, at a picnic or even as a main meal.
Pastry dough: Supermarket bought or homemade?No matter what flavour empanada you choose to make, every winning empanada first starts with the pastry dough. While true perfectionists may prefer to take on the challenge to make their own dough, buying a pre-packaged or pre-made pastry dough for savoury pies will also do the trick and save a lot of time. In Latin America, you’ll find various types of empanada dough, and while most recipes call for a flour-based "masa" (Spanish word for dough), various Central and South American countries specialise in a dough that consists of either corn, yucca root and potato flour.
Argentinean empanadas - Empanadas are king in Argentina with over a dozen different types available. Every year the Tucuman province in the northern region of Argentina hosts the National Empanada Festival. Their famous "empanadas tucumanas" take centre stage, a meat empanada that contains 400g/12oz ground beef, 1 finely chopped white onion, 1 chopped green onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1tsp of paprika, 1 tsp cumin and a pinch of salt – sautéed together for 10 minutes, or until cooked. (Filling for 12 empanadas)
Costa Rican empanadas - In Costa Rica, it's common to find both sweet and savoury empanadas. In addition to the beef, chicken and seafood mix; you'll find fried empanadas with beans and cheese appearing on the breakfast table. For a sweet dessert, try filling the empanadas with dulce de leche, pineapple jam or guava filling. Add a dollop of the dulce de leche in the middle of the empanada and then fry away to golden perfection.
Time to get baked - Once the pastry dough is prepped, the filling is made, and the empanadas are assembled and folded, it's now time to bake. Make sure your oven is pre-heated to 200°C (390°F). Take out a sheet pan and lightly grease the bottom, this will prevent the empanadas from sticking. Place the empanadas on the pan and place in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Fry me up - For those who choose to fry, heat up a neutral oil -- like vegetable oil, canola oil or sunflower oil -- in a deep frying pan and wait until the oil becomes very hot. Carefully stick the empanadas in the oil, in batches of 2-3, until they are golden brown. Once they are completely fried (about 5 minutes), place on a paper towel to cool. Note: if the oils starts to get cloudy or murky, you'll need to change the oil. Dirty oil will give the empanadas a greasy, burnt-like taste.