Friday, 17 January 2014

Beef Empanadas with Mushroom and Zucchini Salad

What a great day of trading! The wonderful mother of one of my close friends is a legendary gardener and offered us a bunch of fresh vegetables from one of her gardens. What a haul! We now have tomatoes, rhubarb, zucchini, capsicum, beetroot, a whole load of salad greens and an eggplant in the kitchen waiting to be put to good use. In exchange, we handed over a bag of plums. I then visited another friend for a playdate with the kids and handed over another bag of plums, in return receiving a large cucumber - no need for the supermarket!

On the topic of plums, we are currently up to our knees in them! We have a very prolific plum tree in the garden which has produced a bumper crop this season. During the winter we gave it a prune as it was beginning to take over the garden. We had no idea what we were doing, but we gave it a good hack, and obviously got something right as it has gone crazy this year! Be aware - there may be a lot of plum recipes coming up soon! Anyone who comes to the house receives a bag, and anyone we are visiting receives a bag - but still we can't seem to make a dent. They are so sweet and delicious though that we are certainly managing to consume a fair few too…although I remember now that January is the month I need to invest in backup napisan for all of the plum stains on the kids clothes. Why do they always seem to be wearing white when they decide to eat a plum?!

Back to the topic of this post! I was browsing recipes the other day (it's kind of an addiction!) and came across this recipe for Beef Empanadas. Empanadas don't really feature all that much on the radar of the kiwi food scene, but I think traditionally they are a little spicy meat mixture wrapped in pastry, kind of like a cornish pasty but more spanish/mexican. The kids and hubby are pretty much fans of anything wrapped in pastry, so I was certain that this one would be a success in our household.

I served the meal with a mushroom and zucchini salad (had loads in the fridge to use up) and topped it with a basic guacamole. In the original recipe, the meat filling has jalapeños added, but I left them out to cater to the kids. However you can add them in if you prefer a spicy filling (I'd recommend it - more authentic and adds another level of flavor!). I also adjusted the recipe for the casing as I wanted to get away from such a heavy serving of almond flour so used a mix of almond and coconut flour. Again though you can use just almond flour if that's what you prefer or is all you have in the pantry!

 Ready to go in the oven…

 Golden and crispy casing with a simple but tasty filling - ready to munch on!

Roasted zucchini and mushrooms mixed with fresh, crunchy salad vegetables and tossed with a spicy jalapeño dressing

 Time to eat - Empanadas and salad topped off with a creamy guacamole and some fresh herbs

Beef Empanadas with Zucchini and Mushroom Salad

Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free


Empanada Casing
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch (or arrowroot)
1 small can coconut milk (270ml)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten to use for egg wash

Empanada Filling
600g beef mince (or mince of your choice)
1 onion, finely diced or sliced
4 cloves garlic, grated
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: about 1/8 cup jalapeños, finely diced, or 1 tsp chill or cayenne powder.

3 zucchini, cut in half lengthways then into thick diagonals
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered
1 green capsicum, cut into big chunks
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 cup lettuce, shredded
1/2 a cucumber, cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp chilli
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon

Salad dressing
6 slices of jalapeño
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

2 ripe avocados
1/2 a red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 a spring onion
1 clove garlic
1/8 tsp paprika
juice of a lemon or lime
salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by preheating your oven for the roasted vegetables. Preheat to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, chilli, cumin, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add the zucchini, mushrooms  and capsicum and mix well to get a good even coating. Pour the vegetables onto the baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes until soft and golden. 
2. While the vegetables are roasting, prepare your mince mixture. In a frying pan, heat about 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and fry until softened. Add the mince. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until no longer pink. Add the carrot and cook for another couple of minutes until softened. Add the herbs and spices (cumin, coriander, oregano, coriander and paprika) and cook for another couple of minutes to allow flavors to combine. Remove from heat. 
3. Get another baking tray and line with baking paper. To make the empanada casings, mix together all ingredients expect for the egg (almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca, coconut milk and salt) in a bowl. Mix well to form a batter. If it seems really thick, add a little more coconut milk - it should be about the consistency of thick yoghurt.
4. In another frying pan, over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of the batter and spread until a thin 'pancake' is formed (should be about 1/2 cm thick at most). Cook until golden on the underside, then remove from pan and place on the prepared baking tray with the baking paper. On the 'pancake' place about 1/8-1/4 cup mince mixture in the middle. Fold the 'pancake' over the mixture and press the edges together to seal. Brush with the beaten egg. Repeat this process with the rest of the empanada batter (it should make about 4-5 depending on what size you make them). Place the baking tray with the empanadas in the oven and cook for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown and nicely crispy around the edges. 
5. While the empanadas are getting all golden and luscious, finish off the salad. In a large bowl, add the roasted zucchini and mushrooms. Add the rest of the vegetables (onion, lettuce, cucumber and tomato). Toss well. To make the dressing, in a small blender or food processor blend together the jalapeños, cumin, water, lemon and seasoning. Taste, and adjust quantities to suit your palate. Warning, this is a spicy dressing - if you don't like it spicy, omit the jalapeños and simply increase the quantities of the other ingredients to make a tasty but mild dressing. Once you have the flavor you like, pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to combine. 
6. Last but not least, make your guacamole (you will want to do this just before serving so the avocado doesn't go brown - still tastes ok but doesn't look so pretty!). You can choose either the chunky or the smooth option… I went for smooth (ish) this time, but I generally prefer chunky. If you are going smooth, place all ingredients in a small blender and blend until combined. If you like it chunky, chop spring onion, finely dice the chilli, grate the garlic, mash the avocado, and mix it all together with the paprika, lemon juice and seasoning. 
7. To serve, place a generous serving of salad on the plate, place an empanada or 2 on the salad then top with a heaping spoonful of guacamole. Yum!

You will find you have plenty of mince mixture leftover, but you can save this for lunch the next day or freeze for another meal of empanadas another day. There are countless uses for a basic mince mixture, so I'm sure you will find a use for it!