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Travelling with Ingredients

I know I only went on holiday in June (you remember, you saw the incessant Instagram stories), but I feel like I need to go again. I really am impossible. I just get excited about new sights, smells, cultures and, naturally, food. I can't wait for the day I can sit in a cafe in New Orleans and have my first authentic Southern beignet. I mean, I have no plans to go to America any time soon, but it's up there on the list.

The next place we're going is back to Italy to do some wedding planning and I can't wait. I'm really looking forward to seeing "family" and getting things moving on the wedding front. I'm sure our guests are looking forward to having a date to save as well. I am also looking forward to my favourite porchetta sandwich from my favourite Thursday market. One day, when I have a big kitchen and a super-reliable oven, I will experiment with making porchetta. I think the mess it would make in my small kitchen would drive me crazy. Rolling pastry and sweet dough is challenge enough.

Speaking of pastry and travelling, have you ever made empanadas? I hadn't until last week, and it was my first hot water pastry too. I have to say, I was very impressed. The pastry was delicious and I made some cooked salsa for dipping as well. The filling was not in any way traditionally Mexican, but the flavours just worked so well. Maybe one day I'll get to go to a cooking class/holiday in South America so I can learn all about that tradition and style of food. Or maybe I could learn from Tomasina Myers herself... that would be wonderful.

These empanadas are vegetarian but if you wanted a meaty version, you could make up the filling from my Beef and Guinness Pie recipe and leave it to chill for at least 24 hours so that it's easier to work with.

Chickpea Empanadas

For the pastry:

  • 240ml boiling water

  • 60g butter

  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

  • 375g plain flour

  • Olive oil for brushing

  • Extra ramekin of water for sealing

For the filling:

  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained

  • 1 red chilli, finely diced with seeds

  • 2 tsp cumin powder

  • Zest and juice of 1 lime

  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • Small bunch coriander, finely chopped

For the salsa:

  • 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped

  • 1/2 tbsp soft brown sugar

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika

  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tsp soy sauce

  • 1 tsp tabasco or preferred hot sauce

Try and make the pastry the day before. If it's not possible, leave enough time that you can let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The chilling time will make it easier to work with. Pour the boiling water into a measuring jug and then add the butter and salt and stir it to melt the butter. Add the flour to a mixing bowl and then pour in the liquid mixture gradually, stirring slowly as you go. Once you get to the end of the liquid, it will get too stiff to stir with a spoon or fork so start using your hands, the flour will have cooled down the water enough to work with.

Unlike most pastries, you want to work this one to activate the gluten, more like bread than pastry. Knead it until it's soft and springy and then wrap the pastry in cling film and chill - at least for an hour, better for 24.

In a bowl, mash up the chickpeas. They don't have to be completely mushy but mushy enough that a rough paste will form when the other ingredients are mixed in. Mix in the other ingredients, cover the bowl with cling film and set aside until you're ready to start filling the pastry. Try and leave it to "marinate" for about an hour.

You can make the salsa any time - make it ahead the day before or make it 10 minutes before you serve, it can be served hot or cold. I like it at room temperature. In a small saucepan, heat a little olive oil and fry off the onion and garlic until they're soft. Add the sugar and paprika and when it looks like the sugar is getting sticky, add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well to combine, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Ta da.

Now back to the empanadas, once your pastry is done chilling, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it's about as thick as a pound coin. Make sure it's all an even thickness too! Heat your oven to 180 degrees C. Cut out rounds with a 10cm cutter, I got about 30 empanadas from that size. I wouldn't recommend going smaller but you could go larger and make proper pasty sized ones.

In the middle of each round, put a small dollop of the filling. Try about half a teaspoon at first and gently fold over one side to make a half moon shape. If you think you can get away with adding a bit more filling without is seeping out, then add a little bit more. Dab your finger into that ramekin of water and wipe it around the edge of the inside of the empanada. Then fold it over into a half moon shape (once and for all this time) and press it closed with your fingers. Repeat this for all and lay them out onto a floured baking sheet. Make sure the pies aren't touching. You don't need to keep much space in between them because they won't rise but you don't want them stuck together.

Press them closed with the edge of a fork, this makes a nice crimping pattern too. Brush them well with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Let them cool ever so slightly before you serve them, especially if you're serving the salsa hot. These are perfect to take to a picnic, a bring and share spread or to have on a Friday movie night.


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