1poundsirloin steakwith a good fat layer along one edge, coarsely ground. Either ask your butcher to do this coarse grinding for you, or use your food processor. A coarse grind is key here so that the steak keeps a little chunky, crumbly texture.
2all-purpose potatoesmedium-sized, peeled, and cut into 1/4 inch dice. Use potatoes that are midway between floury and waxy – Idahos or similar will be grand.
2yellow onionsmedium-sized, peeled, and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
6scallionsall the white parts and all the crisp green stalks, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds. That will be about 1/2 a cup.
The pastry needs to chill for a couple of hours after you make it, so that’s where to start.
Tip the sieved flour, butter, and salt into your food processor. Blitz until the mix is thoroughly combined, and then add the olive oil with the processor still running. Keep it running until the oil is completely absorbed into the mixture.
Tip the whole lot into a good size mixing bowl – steel is ideal because pastry needs to stay cold when it’s being made. Now gradually – and I mean gradually - stir in the cold water a little at a time. Keep on adding and stirring until all the water is evenly combined with the flour mix. This will take a while and a bit of muscle but do it slowly until you have a dough that pulls away easily and cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Time for some kneading.
Turn out the dough onto a cold work surface dusted with a little flour. Use your hands to give the dough a good kneading for 3 minutes.
Form the kneaded dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic film, and put it into the refrigerator. It’s going to stay there for two hours while you leisurely make your empanadas’ filling.
Making the filling
For this you’ll need a big, deep, skillet – I used a heavy 12-inch one. That sort of skillet matters because it will give you a big spread of even heat and allow you to gently cook the filling in a quite shallow layer across the skillet’s wide base.
Set the skillet on a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Let the oil heat for about a minute and then stir in the diced onions so they get a coating of the oil. Drop the heat to low-medium and let the onions fry gently with a few watchful stirs for about 5 minutes. You’re looking to soften the onions and give them a little - a little - browning color all over.
Stir in the serrano peppers, potatoes, and salt. Let the mix fry slowly on that medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the potatoes just begin to soften a little and pick up a hint of color. Take a bit of care with this gentle stir-and-fry process so as not to break up the diced potatoes.
Raise the heat to medium-high and add the ground steak, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, thyme, oregano, and black pepper. Give the mix a thorough stir and let it fry on that medium-high heat for 3 minutes. You want to give it a few good stirs as it cooks so that steak’s fat melts into the mix.
Turn off the heat, and add the tomato paste, water, scallions and lime juice. Stir well so that everything is evenly mixed together. Taste the mix for saltiness – the potatoes absorb a fair amount of salt – and perhaps add a little more to suit your taste. That’s it - filling done. Let it sit in the skillet and cool completely while the dough still sits chilling.
Assembling and baking the empanadas
Line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper and set the tray in the middle of the oven. Set the oven to 400 F / 200C, and let it come up to heat as you make the empanadas.
It’s easier to prep the rounds of pastry if you work with half the dough first, and then repeat the process with the other half. So, cut the ball of dough into two even pieces and form each one into a ball.
On a cold, lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the first piece of dough into a roughly circular shape of 1/8-inch thick. Don’t go any thinner than that, but rather focus on rolling the pastry as close as you can to that 1/8-inch thickness.
Use a 4 1/2 inch, circular pastry cutter (plain edged, not serrated), to cut as many rounds as you can from the rolled pastry. As you work, transfer the rounds to a large cold dinner plate. Form any leftover pieces of pastry into a ball with your hands, and roll that into a 1/8 inch sheet from which you can perhaps cut another few rounds. Set the rounds on their plate in the refrigerator.
Now repeat the rolling and cutting process with the other half of the dough. Good. Time now for filling the rounds, sealing them, glazing them - and baking them.
You want to put a neat mound of about a heaped tablespoon of the cooled filling into the centre of each pastry round. The filling should sit in the middle of each round like a little island, with about a clear half-inch of pastry surrounding it.
Brush a little (about half a teaspoon) of the beaten egg-and-water mix all round the exposed edges. Now carefully fold one side of the pastry over the top of the filling so that you create a half moon ‘D’ shape.
Use your fingers to press shut the curved side of the ‘D’ – you’re aiming to form a complete seal all around that curved edge.
Don’t fuss too much about what the sealed edge looks like – much rather make sure you get a good seal that will keep the filling in place as the empanadas bake in the oven.
As soon as the empanadas are all filled and sealed, space them evenly across the hot, paper-lined baking tray, and brush the remaining egg glaze all over their tops. Set the tray back into the middle of the oven.
Let the empanadas bake for ten minutes at 400F / 200C, then drop the heat to 350F / 180C, and let them bake for another twenty minutes. Done.
Remove the rack from the oven and let the empanadas cool down for 5 minutes – they’re ready to serve.
Now, you can let them cool down even more. These empanadas are just as good when served just slightly warm or at room temperature. My top preference? Just slightly warm. But I do have a powerful liking for them completely cooled the following day.
Serves four people, with four empanadas each (recipe makes 16 empanadas.)