Empanadas de Carne (Savoury Argentine Beef Pastries)

From a culinary perspective, many people associate Argentina with its prime cuts of meat and famous barbecues. Those who enjoy history meanwhile, will know that a lot of cuisine, particularly served in the capital of Buenos Aires, was inspired by Italian immigrants who began to make their way in large numbers to the South American city in the mid 1800s. Empanadas however, Argentina’s other staple foodstuff, bear resemblance to the Cornish Pasty and in fact were allegedly inspired by the English savoury treat itself.

Ever since moving back from Buenos Aires, I have been making empanadas at home and trying to recreate the flavours I would experience there multiple times a week, and sometimes even multiple times a day! Thanks to the introduction of ready to roll gluten free pastry by trusty Jus-Rol in the UK in the last couple of years, my empanada recipe is even easier to throw together and enjoy at home. Highly recommend these delicious savoury pastries as a snack or a light dinner with a side salad and a glass of Malbec, por supuesto!

Ingredients

1 x Jus-Rol Gluten Free Puff Pastry Ready Rolled Sheet (280g)
50g x Lean Beef Mince
1 x Tsp Olive Oil
1 x Small Onion, Finely Chopped
½ x Red Pepper, Finely Chopped
5 x Cherry Tomatoes, Finely Chopped
1 x Boiled Egg, Peeled and Chopped
43g x Pitted Black Olives, Chopped
2 x Eggs, Beaten (to Glaze the Empanadas)
1 x Tsp Oregano
½ x Tsp Paprika
½ x Tsp Garlic Powder
½ x Beef Stock Cube (I use Knorr)
80ml x Red Wine
Pinch Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper and sautee until soft.
  2. Add the mince and stir well to ensure it mixes properly with the onion and pepper. Cook uncovered for around 10 minutes.
  3. Once the beef has browned, add the cherry tomatoes, black olives, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, red wine, salt & pepper. Crumble the stock cube in and stir mixture well.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer mixture, partially covered by a lid, for 1 hour. Check every 10 minutes and stir.
  5. Once the liquid in the mixture has evaporated, remove from heat. Leave the mixture to cool for around 30-40 minutes before adding the chopped boiled egg and mixing well (you do not want the beef filling to be hot when you prep the empanadas to avoid the pastry falling apart).
  6. When the beef mixture has cooled, heat the oven to 170 degrees (Fan) and line two to three baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. On a flat surface, lightly roll out the Jus-Rol Gluten Free pastry sheet to expand slightly but do not over-roll as this will warm up the pastry and cause it to split.
  8. Using a sharp knife, divide the rolled out sheet into three columns longways and then again across, to create 9 squares, measuring around 9-10cm across and lengthways each.
  9. To fill the empanadas, place a square of the pastry in the palm of one hand and place approximately two teaspoons of the beef mixture in the middle.
  10. Using a pastry brush, spread a little of the beaten egg around the edges of the pastry. Turn the square slightly in your hand so it’s at a diagonal, and bring the top and the bottom points of the pastry together into a rough triangle shape by folding gently.
  11. To close each empanada, twist the three edges of the triangle in towards the centre of the pastry and stick down lightly with egg wash to ensure the pastry is closed (otherwise mixture will seep out of the pastry while cooking). Feel free to also gently press the back of a fork onto the edges if this makes sealing the square easier.
  12. Place each raw empanada gently on to parchment paper-lined baking trays immediately after prepping to avoid overheating the pastry in your hands, leaving several centimetres of space in between each empanada as they will expand in the oven.
  13. Using your pastry brush once more, lightly brush all the raw empanadas with the beaten egg to create a nice glaze.
  14. Bake the empanadas for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  15. Leave empanadas to rest for around 15 minutes before serving.

Vichenzo Sin Tacc

Last year, I made my bi-annual pilgrimage to Buenos Aires – also known as the Europe of the south. This beautiful, hectic city was my home for almost three years in my twenties and will continue to draw me back every so often, not least because some of my bestest friends in the world live there. A huge part of my time in Argentina revolved around food – cuisine which is traditionally gluten-heavy. Yes, steak is the main act but when Argentines aren’t eating steaks, they’re usually tucking into amazing fresh pastas and milanesas – a tradition passed down from the Italian community that settled there at the turn of the 20th century. So, returning to this city has often made me nervous, for obvious gluten-related reasons.

What I discovered upon returning was a complete surprise however. The city’s gluten free scene in the last three years has totally exploded, with a long list of 100% gluten free eateries and bakeries sprouting up in multiple areas. Luckily for us, that explosion includes the 100% gluten free bakery and pasta factory Vichenzo, tucked away in the Montserrat neighbourhood, which is a hop skip and a jump from Avenida de Julio.

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Vichenzo opened its doors to the public in October 2015, primarily as a pasta producer. “The original idea was to create a high quality and delicious product that would, in addition, be gluten free and safe for coeliacs or those intolerant to gluten,” Vichenzo co-founder Gaston told me. “We saw the gluten free market as a challenge, and one that would make us grow,” Gaston said. The pair therefore put their learnings from their pasta maestro and store namesake Vicente Fabiz to use and created a range of fresh, gluten free pastas using traditional methods and machinery. The range of traditional pastas on offer in store quickly expanded beyond spaghetti and gnocchi to delights including spinach tagliatelle, beetroot ravioli, salmon casoncelli and more. Today, the store acts also as a bakery, offering a huge array of fresh bread, pastries, cakes and beyond.

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“Many of our products came about because of what particular customers requested of us and they became permanent,” Gaston said, who told me when I visited the store that the store’s only enemy is time and the limitations that it creates. The duo have successfully overcome the trials and tribulations of creating gluten free dough for their pastas and pizzas. However, as everyone and anyone gluten free will know, this is a science, given that a change in the humidity of a kitchen or the slight over-pour of an ingredient can leave the dough unusable. Having tried and tested a multitude of the store’s offerings I can vouch for Vichenzo and the success it has had in creating top notch gluten free products, not least the ready-made pasta dishes and fresh Milanesa sandwiches on crusty bread that you can take to go and eat right then and there in the street.

Discovering that neither Gaston nor Pablo were themselves gluten free makes the story of Vichenzo all the more exciting. In my experience, gluten free businesses come about because of health issues in the owners or founders themselves and so having the opportunity to visit a shop where gluten free is just considered normal in the eyes of two non coeliacs really was an eye opener. Luckily for the people of Buenos Aires, Vichenzo will continue to grow as a business. While plans are still not finalized, it looks possible that the north of the city could be home to a new shop in the future. In the meantime, those reading this from outside of Argentina: get on a plane to Buenos Aires and head straight to Vichenzo. You will not be sorry and I can say with confidence you will never have had a gluten free experience like it!

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Vichenzo Sin Tacc (Closed on Sundays)
Salta 529
C1074 Buenos Aires
Argentina