Chilean Empanadas from a Scottish Family

Fiona: Dad’s family originated from Scotland, my great, great grandfather even lived for Burntisland for a while. He and his family then emigrated to South America. A couple of generations later Dad was born there and then came to live in the UK as a teenager bringing some different family recipes and traditions with him. Here’s our family recipe for Empanadas, a Bridie/Pasty which comes in many different styles across South America. These were a childhood favourite of mine, and of a lot of my friends when they stayed for tea. Dad says: Traditionally in Chile (where I lived in my pre teenage years) they are eaten hand held and a little icing sugar sprinkled onto the bite opening. Also often accompanied with a bowl of sliced tomatoes and shredded shallot dressed with lemon juice salt and pepper.


Makes 6 Empanadas For the filling – The “Pino” 1 lb (500 gm) minced beef or Buffalo 1 large onion finely diced. 3 garlic cloves very finely diced. 2 level teaspoons of paprika. Use sweet or hot paprika depending on how spicy you like things. 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried oregano. ½ teaspoons ground cumin seed. ½ to 1 cup beef stock or water. 1 handful of raisins. Salt to taste dependant on saltiness of stock. Too add when constructing the empanadas: A few black olives say two to three per empanada and optionally slices of hard-boiled egg. The Pastry (this is to make a strong elastic pastry) ¾ lb. of strong flour. 2-4 tablespoons hot fat or lard (depending on whether you are baking or frying the empanadas.) Good pinch of salt. Some very hot water.


Method Fry the diced onion & garlic until soft and transparent. Add the minced beef/Buffalo and fry till browned taking care not to burn. Add the paprika, the oregano (to taste), the cumin and the beef stock. Add the handful of raisins. Bring to the boil and stir whilst it simmers for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the oregano & salt to taste. Simmer for around ten minutes more, stirring occasionally. The meat mixture then needs to be thickened by adding plain flour (dissolved in a little milk or water until the gravy no longer is runny. The gravy should not be runny when cold. The mixture must then be set aside to cool to room temperature. (e.g. overnight in the fridge.) To make the pastry: If frying the ‘empanadas’ use 2 tablespoons of hot fat in the pastry, if oven baking use 4 tablespoons of the hot fat instead. Put the flour and salt into a bowl and drizzle in the hot fat, stirring as you drizzle. When thoroughly mixed add hot water a little at a time until the dough comes together and is not too wet. Kneed whilst warm until the dough is smooth. Keep the dough in the bowl covered so that it does not dry out on the surface.

The dough should be rolled & filled whilst it is still warm, or it will become very difficult to roll out. Cut a third of dough and kneed it into a ball and roll out very thin into an oval, this will make two empanadas. Place a heaped tablespoonful of the cold meat filling mixture on the two front ‘quarters’ of the oval of pastry towards the front edge of the oval. Place the slice of egg (optional) and the olives onto the mounds of filling. Use a wet pastry brush to moisten the edges of the pastry and rub the moistened areas well to create a “glue”. 

Its important that any pastry ‘seals’ are very well stuck down as the main method of cooking these is to fry them and you don’t want them to burst whilst cooking. 

Pull over the top flap of pastry and press down the edges to excluded most of the air between the pastry and the filling. Trim off any excess pastry around the rim of the two mounds. Thin out the trimmed edges to about 2-cm. Moisten and rub the thinned edges and up the sides of the mound to form a flour glue.

Lift the edges up onto the body of the Empanada in three flaps and pat together onto the main body, firmly pinching the two points where the three flaps meet as well as the two end points at the rear end.

Repeat for the rest of the pastry and filling. If oven baking place on a baking tray and bake in an oven set at 175o C until pastry is golden brown and filling heated through (about 30 minutes.) If frying, fry in deep oil for about 5-7 minutes in hot oil until golden brown. Put onto kitchen towel and keep in a warm oven (75/85o C) whilst you fry the others. Eat as soon as you’ve finished frying them all. The assembled “empanadas” can be frozen and cooked at a later time, but the seal must be very well done otherwise they will burst open when frying. The better option if to make the filling in advance as freeze until needed, defrost and then make the pastry and construct your empanadas just before cooking & eating.

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