The empanada Gallega is a stuffed savoury pastry that is about as common in Spain as a pork pie in England. Although from the region of Galicia, they can be found everywhere and come in a variety of shapes, flavours and of course qualities. I have always liked them, the good ones that is, and this week I have a recipe that makes one of the very best!
Over the summer my wife and I went on a trip to Galicia. I had never been to that part of Spain and I guess, one way or another, you could say that we had been thinking of visiting the area for more than 25 years……
I met two Spanish girls, Ana and Ana, in a party in Scunthorpe some 25 years ago. Like Jona Lewie, I found them in the kitchen at a party….. They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I guess it works with some women too! I ended up marrying the one that was digging into the cheesecake. The other Ana became known as “Ana la Gallega” because she was in fact from Galicia. Some 25 years later therefore, we decided to pay her a visit.
Galicia is one of the greenest parts of Spain, for obvious reasons…. i.e. it rains quite a bit there and the temperatures are generally lower than in much of the rest of Spain. We were lucky in that we had excellent weather and could enjoy all that lush greenery under clear blue skies. We were also treated exceptionally well by Ana and her husband as they took us to some beautiful places and some excellent restaurants, both in the city of La Coruña and also in the countryside around the city. Thanks again to both of you.
Although possibly not as famous as some other Galician cities, La Coruña itself is well worth a visit. I found the people there somewhat reluctant to sing its virtues, but it is a beautiful city and one that I really felt I could feel comfortable living in. The food was excellent, the old town beautiful, it has several nice beaches and I loved the typical buildings with their glass enclosed balconies. The port cuts right into the city, so it was also curious to see large transatlantic cruise ships berthed almost in the centre of town.
(I will be covering other cities in Galicia in future articles, as there are a couple of other recipes I want to share with you…… so watch this space!)
Food in Galicia is often quite simple in terms of preparation. They say it is because the raw ingredients are of such high quality one doesn’t have to go to great lengths to make the food shine! After having various meals in Galicia, I would have to agree with them…….
Ana and her husband took us to a small town called Caión where we had a simple dish of fish and potatoes. It was delicious, even the humble potatoes were exquisite having soaked up all the goodness and taste from the locally caught and super-fresh fish!
Sometimes less is more…… I can’t help thinking that many modern restaurants, in an attempt to offer more, often end up offering less. Less in terms of enjoyment and less in terms of quantity….. you know the ones, big prices, big plates and small helpings! If the raw ingredients are good, do we really need to mix them with other exotic ingredients or spices? Let the fresh local ingredients speak for themselves.
So back to the empanada, the recipe for which comes from my wife’s Aunt who lives in La Coruña. We spent an excellent afternoon with them, seeing the sites of the city and partaking of good local food in the local bars. They also gave us empanada in their home, so I cheekily asked for the recipe which I now propose to share with you all!
Before I do, a few words about some of the ingredients.
Firstly pimentón dulce gives warmth and colour to a dish. There are spicy versions available, but “dulce” (meaning “sweet” in English), is more normally used here. I can see it for sale on Amazon so if you can’t buy it in your local shops you could buy it from there. It is important for the recipe, so if you can’t get it do try and get something similar, rather than omitting the spice entirely.
Secondly the pastry. It is important to make your own. This dough is very forgiving. It doesn’t break easily and can be re-rolled multiple times, so I would encourage you to have a go. The only way to get the right flavours into the dough it to make it yourself. If you are not used to making pastry this is a great one to start with.
Serves 8 people
1 Green Pepper
10ml Pimentón Dulce
400g Plain Flour
2½ml Baking powder
150ml Olive oil
1 Baked red pepper (from a tin)
200g Flaked tuna
1 Egg for the pastry
Hard boil the egg then leave to cool.
Cut the onion and green pepper in thin slices (julienne) then fry in abundant olive oil until soft. Stir in the pimentón and mix well. Fry for a couple of minutes more then remove from the heat.
Put a spoon or similar under one edge of the pan to allow the oil to drain to the lower end. Move the fried vegetable towards the higher end and leave to drain for a few minutes. Don’t discard the oil, we will use it later in the pastry.
Meanwhile mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Warm the milk.
Measure out the olive oil, using first the oil from the frying pan, then with fresh, to make up the required amount.
Mix together the milk and olive oil.
Mix most, if not all, into the flour. Bring the dough together, first with a mixing spoon and then kneading by hand. Add a little more liquid, half oil and half milk, until you have a workable, smooth and pliable dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest an hour in the fridge.
Meanwhile, remove the onion mixture from the frying pan leaving as much oil behind as possible. There shouldn’t be much if it has drained well and this oil can now be discarded. Put the onion mixture into a mixing bowl.
Cut the red pepper in julienne and flake the tuna. Mix into the fried onion mixture.
Shell and chop the egg and mix into the onion mixture then adjust the seasoning.
Cut the pastry into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.
Roll out the smaller piece to make a rectangle of about 25cm by 30cm. Place on an oiled baking sheet.
Spread the onion mixture on top.
Roll out the second piece slightly larger than the first.
Beat the remaining egg and paint a little around the edge of the pastry base. Lay the second, larger piece on top and press down along the edges to seal.
Make a breather hole in centre of the pastry top.
Paint the whole top with the remainder of the beaten egg.
Bake for 45 minutes at 190ºC.
The recipe uses roasted red peppers, which can be bought in tins. I am currently harvesting and roasting my own, ready to be frozen till needed. Please see the link below if you want to try it yourself.
As always, please send me any comments or questions you might have.
To learn how to roast read peppers please click here.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge