Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Whole-wheat empanadas with lamb and savoy cabbage stuffing

What to do if you have few strips left of amazing bio lamb meat? The best way to make a cheap yet savory and juicy meal out of it is to turn them into a tasty stuffing for some empanadas. An empanada (Spanish), is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries in Southern Europe, Latin America, the Southwestern United States, and parts of Southeast Asia. The name comes from the Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. In Sardinia, my homeland, we call it panadas, and in some areas they are stuffed with eel meat and they are a divine treat (I am going to post a recipe of it when season comes).

The common origin for all the empanadas is the Arabic Sambusak or Samoosa.

Empanadas are for me a “back to the roots” type of food: they remind me not only my childhood in Sardinia but also my happy years in Milan when, literally obsessed with the Argentinian literature, I also got obsessed with their culinary delicacies, such as the dulce de leche, the alfajores and, of course, the empanadas whom my flat-mate Fabricio (Argentinian) was bringing over constantly.

My take on the empanadas is a sort of fusion of all those sources and, since I knew that Adam, my girlfriend’s seven years old son, was going to feast on them, I needed to go for the healthiest possible option, especially for the dough (we are trying to avoid anything that is made with traditional flour): therefore i used a combination of whole-wheat and gluten free flours, and the result is a light, crispy yet juicy empanada.


For the dough

1 cup gluten free all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick of lard (25 gr), cut in 8 pieces
1 egg
1/2 – 2/3 cup chilled sparkling water or still water

For the stuffing
160 gr of minced lamb meat
Half red bell pepper
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
5/6 leaves of Savoy cabbage
Freshly ground black pepper
Half glass of white wine
Rice bran oil


  1. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor.
  2. Melt in the pieces of lard, an egg and sparkling water – add 1/2 cup of the water to start and then add more as needed or until dough clumps begin to form.
  3. Form a ball with the dough and knead lightly.
  4. Place the dough in bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature for about an hour.
  5. In a pan put a bit of rice bran oil, toss in two unpeeled cloves of garlic, gently fry until golden, then remove the garlic and toss in finely chopped onion and red bell pepper. Adjust with salt and freshly ground black pepper then, when the onion and the peppers are soft, add the lamb meat.
  6. You want the meat not totally done, so it is still moist and soft when you put it in the dough.
  7. Cut in strips few leaves of Savoy cabbage and toss them in. Add a glass of white wine and let the alcohol evaporate.
  8. Set aside to cool down. The stuffing should not be hot, so that I does not soak the dough, yet has to be moist, so that when you cut or bite the empanada the filling is  juicy.
  9. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small plate). It’s really important to get the discs very thin since they cook very quickly when you fry them, if after cutting out the round shapes they are still thick, try rolling each disc a little more until it is very thin (about 5 mm). Another way to do this is to make small round balls with the dough and then use a rolling pin to roll out each one individually. The discs don’t have to be perfectly round.
  10. Place in the stuffing and close the borders pressing hard with your fingers, then use a fork to complete the sealing process.
  11. In a frying pan bring to heat rice bran oil and, when the oil is very hot, put in the empanadas and fry them, turning halfway, for about 3 minutes or until tan. Remove the empanadas, drain the oil and serve them hot.
  12. I suggest, as a dip, a mix of Greek yougurt, harissa and few leaves of fresh thyme.

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