Every culture has some version of a hand pie and Spain is no exception. The empanada is flaky pastry filled with meat, vegetables or fruit. The types of filling available and the shape will depend on the region but popular varieties are tuna and hard boiled egg, seasonal fruits and cheese or lamb with dates. Some of the combinations make your head spin with possibilities. They can be served warm or at room temperature which makes them convenient walking food as I discovered last September on the Camino de Santiago. Today I want to share a spiced eggplant empanada that takes advantage of store bought pastry.
The filling was inspired by a relish similar to caponata made with eggplant, pine nuts and dates seasoned with cumin and smoky paprika. It was delicious when wrapped within the pastry. I bought a type of dough that had a croissant on the label, but I don’t think the popnfresh crescent roll dough is the best choice here. Look for something in the freezer section and fall back to the stuff in the tube if your store doesn’t carry frozen croissant or puff pastry. You could also use your favorite flaky pie crust recipe.
I used a cardboard template to make the shape for my empanada. As mentioned, you’ll find empanadas in a variety of shapes and sizes but the ones I ate on the Camino were usually oval and sized to be easily carried. I used a medium eggplant (about a pound) and had more than enough filling for one empanada. The leftovers are great on spread on a sandwich or heated and served over rice like a curry.
The filling is made by cooking onions and eggplant until they’re tender, then adding some tomato sauce, raisins, toasted pine nuts and seasoning. The filling is sealed between two layers of pastry which is then baked according to the package directions until an amazing golden brown.
You can be fancy when sealing the crust as shown here. If you’re using a pie type dough your effort will be rewarded with a decorative crust but the croissant dough I used rose too much to maintain the design on mine. Not to worry, the sweet and spicy filling didn’t suffer at all!
- 1 medium eggplant (about a pound) trimmed and cut into small pieces
- 1 medium onion diced small
- about ⅓ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup raisins, soaked in warm water until plump
- 2 - 3 tablespoons tomato paste + a little water to loosen it up (or ¼ cup tomato sauce)
- 2 - 3 teaspoons smoky paprika or to taste
- 1 - 2 teaspoons cumin or to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 package frozen croissant or puff pastry dough
- 1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water for egg wash
- Add enough warm water to just cover the raisins in a small cup and allow to soak for about a half an hour.
- Meanwhile prepare the onion and eggplant.
- Saute the onions in some olive oil over medium high heat until they begin to take on some color. Stir in the eggplant and add more oil as needed. Cook until the eggplant is soft but still has it's shape, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile toast the pine nut in a dry skillet, being careful not to burn them.
- When the eggplant is tender, push the vegetables to the sides of the skillet and add the tomato paste, paprika and cumin. Stir them together to combine and add a little water to loosen it up a bit. Gently bring the vegetables in from the sides of the pan to coat with the seasoning.
- Add the raisins and pine nuts. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- While the eggplant is cooling, prepare the croissant dough for baking and preheat the oven as directed on the package.
- Prep a baking tray with parchment and lay the bottom crust in place.
- Add the filling in the middle of the crust, keeping in mind you need to keep the edges clear to seal the dough and the top crust needs to stretch over the filling. You may not need all you have prepared.
- Cover with the top crust and seal the edges. Brush the pastry with an egg wash and bake for the time indicated on the package.
- Cut into slices and serve the empanada hot or room temperature.
Want a meatier filling? Try these tuna and potato empanadas.
Camino Flavors is a series of posts published on the first Wednesday of the month. You’ll find the other posts here.