Whilst in Barcelona last week, I discovered a brilliant stall in the the local neighbourhood market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, which sold loads of different tapas dishes by the kilo. I was in heaven! I couldn’t resist stocking up on some of my favourites: espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan spinach), empanadillas de atún (tuna pastries), croquetas de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) and albóndigas de sepia (cuttlefish balls).
I love savoury pastries and I’ve often had empanadas – the bigger version of empanadillas – in Northern Spain, known as empanada Gallega (Galician empanada), usually filled with tuna, octopus or pork. When I make these pastries, I adapt the recipes from two of my best-loved cookbooks: Elizabeth Luard’s The Food of Spain and Portugal and Casa Moro.
When I returned home from Barcelona I was already missing empanadillas so decided to make my own. As I’d been away for the weekend, I had very little in the cupboard except tinned tomatoes and sardines, but those are the main ingredients of this recipe. You can also make these empanadillas with tinned tuna; just make sure it’s MSC-marked and replace the rosemary with thyme. And if you’re pushed for time or not in a pastry-making mood, you can always use shop-bought puff pastry.
Empanadillas are great in lunchboxes, or for picnics, parties or tapas. If I make an empanada, we’ll have it for dinner alongside roasted cubed potatoes with chopped rosemary, which you can cook at the same time as the pastries (although they take twice as long, about 30 minutes).
The slow-cooked tomato sauce that makes up the filling is called a sofrito in Spain and is really versatile, cheap and easy to make. Use it as a pasta sauce with or without the tinned fish, or to go with meatballs or baked white fish.
500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp or 1 sachet of dried yeast
80 ml lukewarm milk
140 ml lukewarm water
100ml olive oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
¼ tsp salt
pinch of sugar
½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
250g tinned sardines
Mix all the dry dough ingredients first and then the liquids. Knead to a smooth dough for a few minutes before covering and leaving in a warm place for an hour or so.
Fry the onion and peppers for 10-15 minutes on a medium-low heat.
Heat the oven to 200°C or gas mark 6. Add the garlic and rosemary to the onion and pepper mix and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, sugar and chilli flakes, if using. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the sardines 10 minutes before the end, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.
To make empanadillas, roll the pastry out until it’s quite thin and, using a small bowl or saucer about 10-12cm in diameter, cut out circles. Put a dessert spoon of filling to one side of the centre and, using some of the beaten egg, brush around the edges before folding the pastry over and sticking it, creating a semi-circle.
You can use a fork to make a pattern along the edges if you like (see the photo below). Brush the top with egg.
Lightly sprinkle a baking tray with polenta (or line it with greaseproof paper) and place the empanadillas on it. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light brown.
As this recipe uses rosemary from the garden, I’m also entering it for the February Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, using winter herbs.
I’m also entering it for the Credit Card Munch, hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, developed by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All as this recipe is good for packed lunches and uses cheap ingredients.
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