Cooking Under Fire – Minced Beef Pasty/Empanada Thingies

When your bathroom looks like this…

And your dogs are moved from pillar to post in a bed that gets dustier by the day…

You buy minced beef. Well, of course you do.  For a start it´s hard to buy in Andalucía, and then the beef tastes soooo good in England it would be a crime not to. I have discovered a lovely “proper” butcher in Bexhill, and have already made friends with him. He has free range eggs too which are nearly as good as ours. But not quite.

I bought half a kilo (or a pound as my new butcher friend said…he can´t forget those imperial measurements) and turned it into two “cook ahead” meals for us. First up, a simple pasty (but it´s not a Cornish Pasty as it contains carrot and no potato) or empanada (but not really) which I made ahead then warmed up for lunch. I also made another dish for supper later in the week, but more of that later.

Apologies for the photos, my “good” camera is sitting safely in its little rucksack as it doesn´t much like the huge quantities of dust we are currently dealing with on a daily basis.

Ingredients for 2 large thingies

  • 250g short crust pastry (I confess, I bought it)
  • 1 large carrot peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium leek, halved and finely sliced
  • ½ red pepper finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ wine glass of beef stock (I used a cube…I´m Cooking Under Fire you know!)
  • ½ wine glass of red wine (please make sure to drink the other half if you are using wine)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 500g of minced beef (you will only use about 200g of it, so use less if you don´t want to make another dish, or you could make 4 thingies instead)
  • Olive oil
  • One beaten egg

Start by slowly frying the onions, garlic and leek until softened then add the carrots and peppers. Cover the pan with a lid and continue cooking gently until the vegetables are all softened. Add the minced (ground) beef, the paprika and cumin and cook on a medium heat until the mince is cooked. Add the beef stock and wine, reduce the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, taste and season.

Leave to cool slightly while you roll out the pastry. Cut it into two halves and if you´re feeling fancy you can cut out circles. Lay some minced meat filling down the centre of each piece (you´ll probably use less than half of what you have cooked if you used 500g of meat), fold the pastry over to make a parcel and brush with the beaten egg (I had to miss this step out as I had no eggs and I´m Cooking Under Fire you know!) Or have I mentioned that already?

Bake in a medium oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown or as near to golden brown as you can get your pastry without burning it because you didn´t have an egg in the house to brush on top even though you new butcher friend sells them. Phew, lunch (that isn´t a sandwich)…sorted!

DVD Night Empanada

Back from our surprise mini break, the fridge was pretty bare and we needed a quiet night in to recover from living life in the fast lane with the oldies! It was a tough job to keep up with them…we needed a night on the sofa to recharge the batteries.

If you´ve ever spent time in Spain, you´ll probably realise that tv here is generally not all that much to be reckoned with. There is one programme called Cuéntame Cómo Pasó which I love.  It´s a well observed period drama which has won loads of awards and has been going on for years.  It documents the social changes in Spain particularly during the Franco regime and the collapse of it.

There are also some good UK and US series which are shown, although often quite badly dubbed.  They tend to use females with silly voices to play the parts of children, which is most bizarre.  And of course we have plenty of football, tennis and sports coverage as well as pretty good news coverage.

That said, summer tv scheduling is, as in most countries, pretty dire.  Well, who wants to be stuck inside watching tv when they could be out dancing at a fiesta?  Sometimes though you just want to slump in from of the “tele” and disengage the brain for a couple of hours.  Time for a DVD.

Inspired by some of the delicious Empanadas we ate on our recent trip, I decided I´d make a large one to see us through the DVD.  Kitchen skills for this dish were fairly minimal relying on two sheets of defrosted puff pastry and a quarter of a kilo of minced pork. A traditional Empanada from Galicia is more typically made though with a light bread dough, so apologies for the shortcut.

I sautéed the pork with a chopped onion and two cloves of crushed garlic. Then I added half a cup of tomato sauce and one chopped grilled red pepper, some sliced mushrooms and a few chopped capers (which I´m having a bit of a love affair with at the moment).  You can use whatever you have to hand and you fancy. Don´t let it dry out, you want it a little “saucy”.

To assemble the dish lay one sheet of puff pastry on a baking tray and turn the edges up slightly all the way round to form a lip.  Fill with the cooked meat mixture and spread it around evenly.  Put the other sheet of pastry on top and pinch the edges together.  Prick it all over with a fork and brush with beaten egg.  Bake in a medium oven for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden.

We ate it with a tomato, onion and basil salad and long cold glasses of tinto de verano.  That´s red wine mixed with casera which is a sort of not very sweet lemonade.  I know, it sounds odd but believe me when it´s a warm evening and you need to drink lots it´s a great refresher with not too much alcohol and lots of ice cubes.

And what did we watch? Well, a very foody film which I thought was going to be in Spanish but we only realised about 20 minutes into the film that we were actually watching (and both fully understanding!) in Italian.  It´s one of my favourites, Big Night, with Stanley Tucci.  Watch this short clip if you have time.  I bet we´ll all be making Timpano soon – I know I´ve already spoken to my mum to find out our family recipe.  We call it Timballo though, but it´s the same thing.

For a fantastic version of this amazing dish, hop over to Ambrosiana´s recipe here.