Empanada and Jazz in the School Hall

It’s about time that I got back to my blog- I know, weeks of inexcusable silence. Well, it’s been a momentous month: I hit 50, Peter and I got engaged (after just 14 years) and I’ve got a new book on the go. I’ve stored up all sorts of stuff that I really will get down to writing about but thought I’d flash this one off. Here’s the empanada recipe that I cooked, amongst other tasty bits, at the P.T.A fundraiser at our daughter Imi’s  primary school – Hotwells (just a quick hike down, and decidedly buttock-firming climb back up, Granby Hill) in Bristol.

The very enthusiastic Mr Bassett, A.K.A. Peter/Manuel, was my tapas assistant and sidekick – (there was a Fanny and Johnny-esque tone to the demo and now I’m convinced that all the school parents think I’m a bossy old bag -it was all put on of course!) The evening’s entertainment went from the ridiculous to the sublime with another Mum, the super-talented Kate Dimbleby, singing some jazzy numbers including a couple from her latest show and album Beware of Young Girls (Go on have a click and a listen), The Dory Previn Story,  that she just happens to be taking to New York this Christmas.

But now to the empanada which went down a treat – the recipe came from a small restaurant just outside the town of Goian in Galicia. My search for the perfect empanada had been a long one, I felt like I was a million miles from home, gazing across the Minho river at Portugal and then suddenly Fernando the owner/chef started regaling me with tales from his days as a waiter at Thornbury Castle (just a few miles from Bristol) when Fanny Craddock parked her Rolls on the croquet lawn (oh yes we’re back to Fanny again!). It was all quite surreal .. but I must now get to the point and give you that recipe

Galician Flat Pie

The Crust
20 g/ ¾ oz fresh yeast or 1 tsp dried
350 g/12 oz strong white flour
125 g/4 ½ oz corn meal, masa harina or finely ground polenta
½ tbsp salt
50 ml/2 fl oz white wine
100 ml/3 ½ fl oz olive oil
50 g/2 oz lard, chopped into 1 cm/ ½ inch dice (you could use vegetable fat instead)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Another egg lightly beaten, to seal and glaze.

Mix the yeast up with about 3 tablespoons of blood temperature water until you have a creamy paste.

Now put the flour, cornmeal, salt, wine, oil, lard, egg and yeast in a large bowl and begin to stir everything together. You can get your hands in pretty quickly and bring the dough together. It should feel soft and quite sticky, if there is any dry flour left in the bowl then add a splash more water. You will have a job to roll the dough out thinly later if it is too dry.

Work the dough, squashing and rolling for a couple of minutes until well combined and smooth. It will feel somewhere between a pasta and a bread dough. Place it back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for at least an hour or until it has risen a little.

Meanwhile make your filling
Tuna filling – Relleno de atún

150 ml/ ¼ pint olive oil
4 onions, sliced finely
1 red pepper, sliced finely
1 green pepper, sliced finely
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1x 170 g/5 oz can tuna in olive oil
4 tbsp tomato puree
salt to taste
3 boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

Fry the onion until soft and golden and then add the peppers. You really should take your time on this -the longer and more gently you fry this base the sweeter and more delicious the result.

Sprinkle in the paprika and stir in the tuna and tomato puree, cooking for another couple of minutes. Season with salt to taste. Just remember to slightly over season the filling – you might want a dash of vinegar and even a sprinkle of hot paprika too (the filling will be surrounded by the more neutral crust)

Lay the slices of egg on top of the filling in the empanada before adding the lid.

Now for the Assembly

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /400°F /Gas mark 6.

Back to the crust. Roll out half the dough to a 5 mm/ ¼ inch thickness to fit your baking sheet or Swiss roll tin. Grease the baking sheet and lay the dough on top.

Now pile on the filling, spreading it evenly, leaving a 2cm/1 inch margin around the edge. Include all the deliciously oily juices too

Brush the edge with a little beaten egg – this is your glue so do beware not to drip it down the sides of the dough or it will be welded to the tin when it comes to serving.

Roll the rest of the dough to the same size and lay it over the filling. Now crimp the edges together, twisting over the dough to form a rope-like edge – like a Cornish pasty.

Brush the entire empanada with beaten egg and, using a fork, pierce the top with dozens of holes ( or you’ll end up with the London dome effect and then a large split).

Leave to rest for 10 minutes and then bake in the hot oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Fillings can vary enormously but just think of the onion, pepper, paprika and tomato as the base and then add cooked chorizo, pork loin, octopus, salt cod and raisins, black pudding with pine kernels or whatever else takes your fancy.

You’ll find recipes for pork and chorizo or octopus empanadas in my book – The Real Taste of Spain- available from the Hotwell’s School office (if you happen to be a parent) or from good bookshops and from Amazon too

Jenny Chandler- The Real Taste of Spain

And just another little picture for you – I visited a bakery in Santiago de Compostela where everyone took their own fillings into the baker who made up the empanadas with his own fabulous dough, initials were marked in the crust and then baked at dawn ready for a simple lunch or snack to be picked up first thing in the morning.

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