This week, Sophie from Vergingonvegan and I teamed up for a mystery ingredient challenge. We each asked our audience to recommend 4-5 ingredients that they’d like us to use, and we’ll come up with two separate vegan recipes. And I’ll tell you right now, it was actually a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.
The ingredients that were chosen, were: chickpea flour, almond meal, nutritional yeast, and lentils.
Sounds simple enough, but trying to think a little bit out of the box, and fighting off that urge that you have to just go for the recipes that are tried and tested is harder than you would think.
Finally, I settled on a recipe that I hope would do my Puerto Rican family proud. Empanadillas also known as empanadas. Which literally translates to wrapped stuffing in bread or dough. It’s a dish that almost every Latin-American country has a variation of, and Puerto Rico is no different.
It’s a dish I grew up helping my mother and grandmother cook, and a dish I loved to eat. Traditionally, it’s made either with a meat and onion filling, or stuffed with a potato mixture and deep fried in oil. I decided to find a way to utilize the ingredients given to me, but also make it a little cleaner.
And because in my house, empanadas are usually always eaten with Tobasco sauce, I decided to make a spicy version of my mother’s sofrito. Sofrito is basically the base flavor that’s used in all Puerto Rico dishes. I have distinct memories of my mother in the kitchen, whipping up a quick batch of her sofrito–a medley of green peppers, cilantro, lemon, onions, and garlic blitzed up to make a paste. Then, when you’re cooking (literally anything), you add some oil to the pan, cook off some sofrito till the house smells like heaven, and then add whatever it is you’re cooking.
So here’s how I made it:
- 1 cup of chickpea flour
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
- 1/4 cup of nut milk/water
- A pinch of sea salt
- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
- 1 cup of red lentils
- 5 cloves of garlic
- Cilantro sprigs
- 1 spring onion
- 3 tablespoons of smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
- 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (this is totally optional)
- 1/4 cup of almond meal
- Sea salt to taste
- Chopped yellow bell pepper (half a bell pepper)
- 1 spring onion
- Cilantro sprigs
- Half a green bell pepper
- The juice of 1 lime/lemon
- 2 teaspoons of tahini sauce
- Half an avocado
- 1/2 clove of garlic
- 2 teaspoons of water
Here’s how to make it:
- Start by making the dough. Mix all the dough ingredients together and knead until it becomes well incorporated and a tacky to the tough (not too dry or too wet). If you feel the mixture is still too dry, add more milk or water (A LITTE BIT AT A TIME). Then, cover with beeswax paper/cling film and set aside at room temperature and start with the filling.
- For the filling, I started off by peeling the sweet potatoes, dicing them relatively small, and boiling them in water until they were soft enough to mash with a fork.
- In a separate pot, I boiled the red lentils until they too were tender enough to mash up.
- In a large bowl, I added the sweet potatoes, lentils, almond meal, sea salt, nutritional yeast, and paprika and mashed the mixture with the back of my fork until they became a nice, smooth mixture.
- Then, in a pan, I fried the garlic, cilantro, and onion and added them to the filling mixture.
- Set the filling aside and let it cool off a bit, while you work on the dough again.
- Set your oven to 200C and allow it to preheat while you make the dough.
- On a clean surface, roll out the dough as thin and uniform as possible — always making sure to flour the surface and your rolling pin so that it doesn’t stick.
- Then, with a small plate, place the plate on your dough and cut a circle around it, saving all the scraps.
- Grab all the scraps left, knead them a bit again and roll them out to make another empanada.
- Put about 3 large spoons of the filling inside the circle of dough, fold to one side and shut using the back of a fork.
- Place the empanada on a baking sheet, brush with coconut oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they get nice and golden brown.
- While the empanadas are baking, it’s time to make the sauce.
- In a container, add all the sauce ingredients and using a hand blender, blitz them all together till nice and creamy.
- Allow the empanadas to cool a bit before you eat them, and dust some paprika on top.
The recipe sure does sound more complicated than it actually is. And it sure did take me a lot of trial and error to get the dough right. But it’s worth it to be able to see a plant-based, cleaner version of one of your childhood favorite flavors.
I hope I’ve made my abuela proud with this one!
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