This delicious South American snack is great for several reasons. One, they're easy to personalize and make as you wish – you can even make them into desserts. Two, they're easy to take on the go as a snack or even as a meal. Three, you can bring them to work and heat them in the microwave. Four, if you're not in the mood to cook, heating a few of these make a healthy dinner and you can just pop them in the microwave.
Instructions for the perfect dough:
1- Buy a pouch of pre-cooked corn flour. My favourite is the one that is often available in Latin-American stores: yellow Doñarepa corn flour.
2- Prepare the dough following the instructions on the back. All you need to do is boil water and add salt (I just don't remember the exact measures).
3- Flatten out the dough as you would for a pie.
4- Using the bottom of a medium-sized plate (such as one for desserts), press down on the dough to cut it in circles. If you have a cutter the same size, that would be better.
5- Lay out the dough circles on a plate, using a bit of flour on each to keep them from sticking together.
** If you can't find this brand, any kind of corn flour will do. A mix of half flour/half water is the trick, and add a bit of salt.
Spinach Empanada Filling
1- Finely chop a bunch of spinach.
2- Finely chop two medium tomatoes. The juicier, the better.
3- Finely chop five big white or brown button mushrooms, or one Portobello mushroom.
4- Finely chop two garlic cloves.
5- Finely chop a few parsley leaves.
Fry all the ingredients together, at the same time, in a pan. Add half a cup of quinoa.
Don't overcook as you will need to fry the empanada as well. The quinoa grains are ready when they start splitting open.
To Make the Empanada
1- Preheat three inches of olive oil (at medium is fine) in a large pot.
2- Lay out one of the dough circles on a plate.
3- Add two tablespoons of the filling in the centre.
4- Fold in half, like a half-moon.
5- Lay in the oil until golden brown.
6- Flip to cook the next side.
7- Repeat steps 2 to 6 as needed
For a fresher-tasting empanada, replace the spinach with fresh basil.
For a different consistency, switch the quinoa with either rice or potatoes. This requires an extra step as these ingredients need to be cooked before you add them to the filling mix. Remember to dice the potatoes as small as you can.
For a less 'juicy' consistency, switch the tomatoes with very finely chopped carrots or peas, or try adding chopped peanuts.
If you want to make sweet empanadas, here are a few ideas. However, instead of olive oil, use nut oil or one that doesn't have flavour, such as sunflower oil. Your filling won't need to be pre-cooked. And you can skip adding the salt to the dough.
1- Strawberry chocolate chip (for better results, use frozen strawberries that were thawed prior to cooking - keep some of the juice). Add just a bit of organic raw suger.
2- Raspberry jam with sliced almonds
3- Tofu with pineapple chunks and shredded coconut or a bit of coconut milk
** Don't forget to experiment! The more flavour you add, the better tasting the empanadas will be!
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