Friday, April 09, 2010
Little parcels of goodness
So instead of buying lovely bread and expensive cheese or salami, I concentrate on thinking of other ways to get food to work without it getting all over my notebook or going undesirably cold.
This is not the first time someone has faced this problem, as you will realise if you consider the fact that almost every culture has developed some version of a pasty, a parcel of dough containing a filling.
I decided to experiment with the Mexican version, the empanada. The main distinction, as far as I can tell, is that the pastry dough usually seems to have some acid in it, vinegar or lemon juice, and the parcels are covered in egg wash to make them shinily golden.
6 oz self-raising flour
pinch of salt
4 oz butter (or some combination of butter and lard)
juice of half a lemon
3 fl oz cold water
Sift the flour and salt together and cut in the fat till you have the traditional pea-shaped lumps. Add the lemon juice and enough water to pull it together as a soft dough, then cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour. (Or more).
In the meantime, make a filling. I fried some bacon lardons, then added a large leek, lots of mushrooms and a red chilli. When everything was soft, I threw in some fresh thyme and about 150g of ricotta that I happened to have in the fridge. When the filling looks yummy, leave it to cool.
Next, while the oven is heating to 220 C (gas mark 7) roll out the dough. This is enough for six official 6 inch rounds, plus one scrunched together from scraps. I found it made life simpler to divide the dough in two, roll out each half to big enough to cut out two rounds (using a cereal bowl), then roll out the scraps from both halves for one more rectangle big enough to make two circles.
Have a beaten egg standing ready to paint on the empanadas. Each circle gets a dollop of filling - two tablespoons-full, my recipe said - then the border of one half is painted with egg. Fold the other half over onto the wet edge and crimp it down with the tines of a fork.
Finally paint all the empanadas generously with egg and put them in the oven for around 15 minutes or until they are beautifully golden brown. Leave on a wire rack to cool for a while - this is an important step if you value the skin on the roof of your mouth - and enjoy.