When I first moved away from California and started yearning for my favorite home-cooked Filipino comfort foods (arroz caldo! pork adobo! sinigang!), my mom recommended I start reading and making use of The Philippine Cookbook by Reynaldo Alejandro. This book has been a staple in my mom’s kitchen for many years, so I enthusiastically picked up a copy at my local bookstore. Sadly, the book has been unceremoniously neglected since then, collecting dust in our kitchen. Now, one of my current goals is to (finally) learn how to cook every single recipe in this book.
Today, I start this challenge with the empanada, a.k.a. the meat turnover.
Ingredients for the filling:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 clove garlic (minced) or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 small onion (minced)
- 1 cup diced potatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup seedless raisins
Disclaimer: I didn’t precisely follow the recipe instructions from the book. First off, I left out the raisins because I hate them (I don’t eat dead grapes). I used about 3 cloves of minced garlic because I love me some garlic! And I didn’t have a small onion in the pantry, so I used half of a large white onion. I peeled and diced 2 medium sized white potatoes for my filling, which yielded about 2 1/2 cups– if you want just 1 cup as written in the original recipe, just use 1 medium sized potato.
Now down to business. First, I browned the ground beef in a pan with about 2 teaspoons of canola oil over medium-high heat, seasoning the meat with some salt and pepper. Next, I removed the beef from the pan and set it aside. Using the same pan, I sautéed the minced garlic and onions until they were translucent, then added the potatoes. I seasoned with the remainder of the salt and pepper. Once the potatoes were cooked through, I reincorporated the ground meat into the mixture. (At this point, you would also mix in the raisins.) Then I removed the pan from the heat to cool down.
Ingredients for the empanada pastry:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup oil
- 3 egg yolks (plus some egg whites for sealing empanadas)
Alternatively, the book notes that you could use ready-made pie-crust mix for the pastry. I had all the above ingredients in my cupboard, so I figured I’d do things the hard way and make it from scratch. So…
In a large bowl, I mixed together the flour, sugar, and salt. Then I added the water, oil (I used vegetable oil), and egg yolks to the bowl and kneaded the ingredients together into a soft ball of dough. I set aside the egg whites for sealing the empanadas and for making an omelet the next morning.
On a floured cutting board, I rolled the dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. I then cut the dough into circles using a wide-mouthed mason jar lid. Note, the cookbook says to cut circles that are 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and the mason jar lid I used was about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. So after I cut my circles, I rolled them out just a little bit more to get the desired measurement.
Hopefully by now, the meat filling is cool enough to the touch for you to handle. Once I had all the dough circles cut out, I placed about 2 teaspoons of meat in the center of each circle. Then I folded the dough into a half-moon shape, lightly wet the edges with some egg white, and pressed down the edges to seal everything in.
After you have all your pastries filled, you have two options for cooking: 1) deep fry them to a golden brown and drain the oil; 2) bake them in the oven (preheated to 425°F) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. I’m currently more health-conscious than usual and am trying to lay off the fried stuff, so I chose the latter option. Here, I placed the empanadas on a baking sheet sprayed with some canola oil:
Overall, this recipe was relatively easy and took me about 2 hours to cook from prep to finish. The cookbook says that the recipe yields 20 empanadas, but I actually ended up creating 16, with some additional filling left over. Next time I’ll try to make the pastry a bit thinner (this would yield more empanadas and probably take less time to bake in the oven). Finally, make sure that you seal the sides well and don’t overfill the dough, otherwise you will end up with some of your empanadas baking (breaking) open!
I’d love to hear others’ suggestions for different empanada fillings and dips to try. Also, if you have other Filipino cookbooks that you recommend, I am all ears!