Bienvenido de nuevo! It’s time to get in the kitchen and make some delicious Cuban food.
Cuba, better known for its gorgeous scenery and political positions than its culinary offerings, has a unique taste like no other country. Cuban meals are huge and full of flavour, and their snack food, though compact, is packed with tempting taste.
So today, before you kick up your feet and have a mojito, Cuban style, whip up a batch of these Ropa Vieja filled Empanadas (stuffed pastries) for you and a handful of your closest friends.
Empanadas with Ropa Vieja Filling
Empanada Dough (the pastry part)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup shortening
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup (approximately) cold water
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients well with a whisk. Add the shortening and rub the mixture together in your hands, until you’ve created a crumb-like texture. Make a well in the centre, and add egg and water (adding more water if necessary) until you create a dough-like consistency.
Knead the dough until it is smooth, and then throw it down against the work surface a few times (let out all of your frustration!). Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until filling is ready.
Ropa Vieja (the filling)
1 ½ pounds flank steak
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
½ cup sliced black olives
Salt, to taste
Place beef in a large pot, add enough water to cover beef with one inch of water. Add the bay leaves ½ the onion, ½ the green pepper, the tomato, ½ the garlic, 1 tablespoon of cumin, and the oregano. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.
Take the beef out, put on a plate, and pour the broth from the pot through a strainer, reserving clear broth. Using two forks, shred the beef and set aside.
Pour olive oil into a large pan at medium-high heat and add the remainder of the onion, pepper, and garlic until tender. Add the tomato paste, beef, olives, and cumin. Mix well, cover, and let simmer on low-medium heat for 10 minutes, then uncover and continue to simmer until sauce has thickened significantly, about 5 minutes.
Set aside, let cool slightly while preparing the dough.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about ¼” thickness and cut into circles approximately 4-6” in diameter. Put the Ropa Vieja on the circles by heaping spoonfuls, and then fold to create a half-circle. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
In ¾ inch hot oil, fry the empanadas (2 or 3 at a time) until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning once. For a healthier option, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients and seemingly daunting instructions. It’s not too tough of a recipe, and the results are most definitely worth it. Interested in doing a little bit more Cuban cooking? Check out “Three Guys from Miami Celebrate Cuban: 100 Great Recipes for Cuban Entertaining.” It’s got a ton of great authentic Cuban recipes that are clearly laid out, beautiful photographs, and a helpful food glossary.
Next week we’re moving on to Jamaica! Have you ever been to Jamaica? If so, what’s your favourite culinary memory of your visit?
For more foodie fun, head over to Wanderfood Wednesday – it’s bound to satisfy your appetite for tasty reading material.