Our family although Filipino and Chinese in background has never been one to strictly espouse only Filipino and Chinese food. We were encouraged to always explore new foods, try new things, be adventurous and never try the same thing twice. I never did develop a penchant for strange and overtly exotic foods, and so I was never the first one to put my hand up for beef tripe or fried fish eyes; however with this kind of upbringing, it has allowed my palate to expand and accommodate an entire world of cuisine. I love everything from Japanese to African and from French to Mediterranean.
Be that as it may, my experienced palate at times yearns for something that reminds me of my heritage, something reminiscent of my childhood. Which brings me to these empanadas, traditionally Spanish in origin, but thanks to Spanish conquistadors and the colonisation of the Philippines by the Spaniards, this dish has been a staple in Filipino cuisine for centuries. Colonisation has never always been a pleasant mission, both for the colonisers, but mainly for those being colonised, although when it comes to cuisine, the exchange and the fusion of culinary cultures, mostly produces positive outcomes.
These empanadas always seemed to be served at every party I went to during my childhood. Be it a christening, a birthday or a house warming, they were the constant welcome to any get together. And every time my parents would attend a grown-up party without us kids, mum would always come home with a foil package containing three or four empanadas for us to share.
As ubiquitous as they were during my youth, I never seemed to tire of them. Even when, as a child, I used to think it was so odd to have fruit and meat wrapped up in the same package. So I used to pick out the sultanas and leave them for my mum to hoover up later. But yet, they were a continuing favourite of mine. A celebration without them would be considered incomplete.
The empanada being such a recurring and faithful character in my childhood, it was only natural that I should hanker to revisit them now in my adult years. Well, I still consider myself a child at heart, and sometimes in mind, so perhaps it is that immature part of me that longs to take myself back to those children’s parties where empanadas were plentiful and the fancies of being a kid were all we knew about. A lot of my food cravings and appetites always seem to stem from childhood or the nostalgia of being a kid. That is why I love cupcakes and cookies and all things cute. These empanadas are another one of those things that take me back to that place.
These empanadas are probably far from traditional as they are usually made using ground pork or sometimes chicken. But being such cow lovers, our family like to use beef instead. The recipe works with pork and chicken meat too. Also, I have never been one to oppose using store-bought pastry. I know there are some pastry snobs out there that only swear by homemade puff pastry and I salute you for going the extra mile and sticking to your guns about that. I love homemade pastry too, but I don’t always have the time to spend hours making puff pastry myself, so I don’t think opting to use pre-made pastry is a cop out at all. But whichever side of the pastry debate you’re on, there is no doubting that this filling will satisfy even the fussiest of palates.
And I have to say, now that I am all grown up, I don’t think meat and fruit are a weird combination and I am happy to say that I no longer pick out the sultanas from my empanadas.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 spanish onion, chopped finely 2 garlic cloves, diced
800g ground beef
sea salt cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
½ cup sultanas
2 x sachets tomato paste
1 package pre-made puff pastry
1 tsp water
In a large frypan or wok, heat olive oil over medium heat.
When frypan is hot enough add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute.
Add ground beef and using a wooden spoon, break up the meat making sure no lumps form.
Cook until the meat has evenly browned.
Season with sea salt, black pepper and chilli flakes, mix.
Add the carrots and peas and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and mix thoroughly.
Stir through the sultanas and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and create a well in the centre so that excess moisture can be drained from the filling.
Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 180˚C.
Prepare a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Cut out rounds 10-cm in diameter from the pastry sheets.
Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the centre of the rounds and fold the pastry over right to the edge.
Seal the edge by pressing a fork along the edge of the empanadas.
Make egg-wash by breaking an egg into a small bowl and whisking it with a tsp of water.
Place the empanadas on the baking tray and brush lightly with some egg-wash
Bake for 13-15 minutes until empanadas are a golden brown colour.
Remove form oven and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack.