Thursday, 17 September 2015

Ham and Cheese Empanadas

Ham and Cheese Empanadas

It is the best of food; it is the worst of food – but what to do with all the left over ham? Leftovers are great but when you have exhausted all the usual options, the squeals of delight turn to groans of horror at the thought of yet another ham sandwich. What is the best way to solve that problem? An empanada! Empanadas make any leftovers the best way to have them. Welcome to my last food column for 2014.

Empanadas are small, stuffed pastries, filled with whatever deliciousness you have on hand. The dough is cut into rounds and wrapped around a filling, usually including cooked meat and cheese. Originating in the Spain and Portugal, the first recipe for an empanada was published in 1520; they have stood the test of time, and rightly so. Similar to an Indian samosa, it is thought the idea for them was influenced by culinary creations from India or even perhaps the Middle East. 

Empanadas are now eaten all over the world and are so loved that there is even a festival to honour them in Argentina.  

The one main difference in empanadas around the world is the pastry on the outside of them. Some use corn dough, some use white flour dough, some use oil or butter and some use lard. I am pretty sure that no matter what you use, they are all going to be really good. Because it can be really difficult to source good quality Masa Harina (ground corn flour) in New Zealand, I will use white flour in my recipe today.

This is my last column for 2014. I would like to take this opportunity to wish my readers a wonderful start to 2015 and thank you very much for reading my column. If you have missed a recipe, or would like to contact me, you can do so through my website

Kia makona, Mawera Karetai x

Making the Dough:
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
115 gms cold butter, cut into cubes
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 – 2/3 cup chilled sparkling water or still water

  1. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor, or mix by hand in a bowl.
  2. Add the pieces of butter, juice 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. If you do not have a food processor, but the butter in with two knives.
  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. 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. 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.


  1. Place the some ham, cheese and any other leftovers in the centre of the circle
  2. Carefully fold over the circle with contents into a semicircle. Crimp down the edges with a fork. If the edges won't stick together, wet your finger and rub it along the inside edge of the dough and try again.
  3. Finish the empanadas by deep frying in hot vegetable oil for 1 to 2 minutes per side. They should be lightly golden. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with a little salsa. 

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