Many cuisines have some type of turnover, a crescent-shaped pastry usually filled with meat and vegetables. In England, it’s the Cornish pasty, made with minced beef, onions, and potatoes in shortcrust pastry — a recipe that’s been around for hundreds of years, with slight variations. More recently, Euro zone bigwigs conferred Protected Geographical Indication status upon the Cornish pasty, which means only those made in Cornwall to a specific recipe and shape are allowed to be called Cornish pasties, just as true Champagne and Camembert are only from designated regions. I’m waiting to see what the European Court will do when they find out I’ve been making Cornish pasties here in High Falls with any filling I fancy. But to avoid an international incident, from now on, I’m calling mine empanadas.
I make shortcrust pastry using two cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, and about two-thirds of a cup of shortening, usually half butter, half lard, which gives the pastry flavor and flakiness. For a shortcut, there’s store-bought shortcrust pastry, or empanada discs.
As for fillings, the simplest are ground or shredded beef, lamb, chicken or turkey, mixed with vegetables and seasonings. Some recipes call for cheese, or hard-boiled eggs. Experiment; it’s hard to go wrong. Spicy empanadas made with chorizo and black beans are delicious — and I’m certain the EU would have a fit over my calling those Cornish pasties.
Whatever filling you concoct, if you have time, leave it overnight to let the flavors blend. I usually make batches of 10 or 12, and freeze the uncooked extras. This is my husband’s favorite filling at the moment:
2 Tbs olive oil
1½ pounds ground dark-meat turkey
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2½ teaspoons cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
2/3 cup raisins
1 cup pitted black olives, chopped
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the turkey, onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes over moderate heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until it’s browned and the onions are translucent. Add the raisins and olives, and season to taste. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut pastry into six-inch circles and spoon about 3 tablespoons of mix onto each, then fold in half and crimp the edges to seal. Brush with beaten egg if you want a golden top. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the empanadas are golden. Makes about a dozen.
I often cook potatoes, lightly tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with smoky paprika, alongside the empanadas on the baking sheet and presto: a golden dinner! You just need a salad for something green.