*Please note that the time for this recipe does not include 4-8 hours resting time for the dough!
I am approaching that horrifying yet wonderful time; my last 2 weeks in yet another country.
In 2 weeks, I’m moving from the stifling, exciting, wonderful Panama City to the freezing, exciting, glorious Edinburgh (yes, in Scotland), and it’s all starting to hit home that my cab drivers will no longer play merengue at deafening levels and my rice and beans lunch will longer cost $1.50. It’s time to go, for sure, but that doesn’t make the going any easier.
When I leave a place, I always do the “why didn’t I” dance. Why didn’t I learn salsa? Why can’t I speak more than barely passable Spanish? Why did I never go to Las Tablas on Carnavales? Another, worse one occurred to me this weekend: why have I never made empanadas?
Empanadas are a sort of Latin American pasty; a dough stuffed with any manner of delicious things. They’re often deep fried but mine will be baked, as I suck at deep frying things and don’t feel right wasting all that oil. Baking is just easier (and healthier: bonus). Empanadas are the go-to grab-something road-trip food in Panama, especially if you stop at the phenomenal Quesos Chela, and if you’re hungry at work and need something, you can buy these almost everywhere. Obviously none of these are vegan – so why haven’t I been making them at home?
Thus, a whirlwind of empanada-making began. This isn’t a quick process if you want to make your own dough (as I ALWAYS stupidly do), and as my hands are not Latin American, the making took a little getting used to. But the results were most definitely vale la pena (they were amazing).
You can use this dough to make sweet empanadas (maybe apple, or shredded coconut with coconut butter), but these will also make a great starter for four or a lunch for two – or even as a road trip treat, as you can eat them both hot and cold. If yours aren’t perfect the first time, don’t worry! They’ll still be delicious!
(Makes 4 empanadas – feeds 2 or 4 as a starter)
Dough: (This recipe uses Terry Hope Romero’s vegan dough recipe, altered a little)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/4 – 1/3 cup cold water or more as needed
2 cloves garlic, diced
a little olive oil
1/2 a white onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
4 roasted red peppers, diced
1 cup (or 1 medium jar) of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced in halves or quarters
a little non-dairy milk
a good handful of culantro (Latin American coriander) or coriander
3 cloves garlic
apple cider vinegar
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and baking powder for a few seconds, then add in the margarine, cut into chunks. Pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs
Pour the mixture into a large bowl then add in the cold water in a thin stream. Add just enough so that you can form a stretchy dough that’s soft
Knead for a couple of minutes, split into 2 balls, then flatting each ball to an inch thick and wrap in cling film. Leave for 4 hours, or overnight
Leave your rounds in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and lightly grease a baking tray
Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add in the diced onion and garlic
Stir and cook until translucent, then add in the diced roasted red pepper, cumin and paprika, along with a little salt
Cook for a few minutes then remove from the heat; drain most of the liquid away and stir in the chopped artichoke hearts
Take your first ball of dough, and split it in half. Roll the half out into a circle double the size of the size that your empanadas to be, and put 1/4 of the mixture just to one side of the middle, making sure not to get any of the liquid on the edge of the dough
Fold one side of the dough over the filling to make a semi-circle, and press the edge into the other edge
Secure the two edges together by pressing the tines of a fork into them, making the usual empanada / pasty shape. Place this empanada onto the baking tray and brush with a little non-dairy milk
Repeat for the rest of the dough and the filling
Place into the oven for 25 minutes
While the empanadas are baking, place the garlic, culantro / coriander, a splash of apple cider vinegar and a splash of olive oil into a food processor and pulse to a fine or rough sauce. Add more vinegar and oil to reach your desired consistency
Pull the empanadas out of the oven, place onto plates, top with the sauce and serve immediately – but be careful; they’re hot!
For me, the culantro sauce takes these from good to absolutely amazing; the artichokes and the roasted red peppers both have fantastic mouth feel and the green stuff sets everything off. I have to stop myself eating more than two of these, as I get so full I look like I’m having a food baby and need to go for a lie down if I eat more than that.
It’s shocking to me that I’ve never made these before. At least on the cold, rainy nights in Scotland I’ll be able to bake these and have a little taste of that Panamanian sun once again.
Panama, I’ve got a little while in you yet. Let’s see what Panamanian recipes I can crank out in the next couple of weeks!