Makes 12-15 medium sized empanadas

Though many think of empanadas as South American savory handheld pastries, they are in fact originally from Spain. The author of the Shulchan Aruch – Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575) writes about empanadas in his treatise on Jewish law.

Empanadas travel east with the Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition, many say that these savory treats are the forebearers of bourekas as well as sambousek. And the Jewish affinity for them was that because the filling was usually dry, it would be permitted to reheat them on Shabbat without transgressing the prohibition of cooking on Shabbat.

Empanadas were most probably brought to the New World by the Conversos who sailed across the Atlantic with the Conquistadors. One of the remaining legacies to those brave Jews who settled in the New World is that most empanadas are made with beef and not pork.

The version we have here is a bit ‘child friendly’ in that we took out the traditional, hard-boiled eggs, boiled potato, currents, and olives, in the hopes that my kids would love them, and they do! But if you want to go traditional have a go at the authentic additions!

For Dough:

  • 125ml (½ cup + ½ tablespoon) olive oil
  • 125ml (½ cup + ½ tablespoon) warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 375g (3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

For Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (25g) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 400g (14 ounces) lean minced beef
  • 240ml (1 cup) beef (or chicken) stock

For assembly:

  • 2 egg yolks

For the dough:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl combine the olive oil and water. In a second bowl combine the flour and salt, pour the flour into the liquid mixture a bit at a time until most if not all the flour has been combined and you have a soft dough.
  2. Knead the dough a couple of times until smooth and elastic. The dough can be used straight away or stored wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you have made the dough ahead of time, give it a couple of kneads to get it malleable once more.

For the filling:

  1. Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, once hot add the olive oil until shimmering, add the onion and saute until softened and golden brown about 10 minutes, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds, add the oregano, cumin salt, and pepper to the onions and stir until combined.
  2. Add the beef and saute until the beef is completely browned. Add the broth and cook until most of the broth has evaporated, but there is still enough to moisten the filling.
  3. Allow the filling to cool completely before assembling the empanadas.

To assemble the empanadas:

  1. Heat the oven to 180℃ (350℉). Line two baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Divide the dough into quarters, working with one quarter at a time. On a clean surface with a rolling pin (the dough is quite oily so you will not need to flour the surface or the rolling pin) roll out the dough until very thin about ⅛ of an inch. Using a very large round cookie cutter or a small bowl as an outline and a sharp knife, cut out the pastry into 13cm (5 inch) diameter circles.
  3. Fill the pastry with a generous tablespoon of filling, and brush the edges of the pastry with egg yolk, to ‘glue the edges shut in a half-moon shape. You can use the tines of a fork or your fingers to press the pastry shut.
  4. Place on the prepared baking tray, repeat with remaining dough and filling. You can reroll the scraps of dough as many times as you need, no dough should go to waste. Brush the tops of the empanadas with egg yolk, bake for 30 minutes, swapping the trays halfway through baking so that they bake evenly.
  5. Empanadas are ready when they are golden and pastry is baked through. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made up to two days before serving, keep in the fridge well wrapped, bring back to room temperature or heat gently before serving.