Venezuelan cuisine is mostly known for the arepa. But our gastronomy goes beyond the arepa, with exotic flavors and sumptuous sweet meals, it has become a favorite all around the world, especially the empanadas, which we could say is the arepa’s cousin.
It is the quintessential aperitif when in the beach, where one can see, in a very folklore and artisan way, as people with a gas bottle and a cauldron make empanadas on the sidewalk or in the beach and sell them as a form of livelihood. The most common of all is the cheese empanada, but it can be made with anything you can imagine, with black beans and white cheese (domino), dogfish, white heese and platain, chicken, you name it.
You don’t need to be a Michelin star chef to make them, just get the right ingredients, grasp a little patience and that’s all.
Here’s what you’ve got to do:
- In a small cauldron, heat ¼ cup of oil. When it’s hot, but not boiling, add the onoto seeds. Let cook for a while over very low heat until the onoto seeds release their color and obtain a bright red translucent fat. Pass the oil through a strainer to remove the onoto. If you do not have onoto, don’t worry, add little turmeric in the dough instead. This seasoning will also help you give a very nice color to the dough.
- Mix the warm water, salt, sugar or sugarcane and oil in a bowl. Add the precooked corn flour gradually and stirring constantly with your hands so that no lumps are formed.
- Begin to knead vigorously and without pause. The flour might absorb the liquid so if you need more water, don’t be shy and continue kneading. The consistency of the dough should be dense and shiny, if you make a compact and smooth ball and it doesn’t stick to your hands, nor the walls of the bowl, it means the consistency is perfect.
- Leave the dough to stand for about three minutes before starting to ensemble the empanadas
- You may use this three minutes to prepare the fillings.
- Now let’s ensemble them! First, you have to cut open a ziplock bag so you get a single flat sheet and moisten it with a little bit of oil so that the dough doesn’t stick to the bag.
- Divide the dough into balls a little larger than a golf ball or a large egg and place it on the plastic sheet
- Smash the dough with your fingers until you get a circle of approx. 1/2 cm thick. (If the dough gets stuck on your fingers, moisten them with a little water and continue smashing the dough).
- Place the filling in the center of the dough. Now lift one side of the bag together with the dough and make a half-moon. Make sure the edges are stuck together so the filling doesn’t come out when fried.
- Remove the plastic sheet and place the patties in a tray
- Repeat as many times as empanadas you’d want to make
- Heat vegetable oil in a large, deep cauldron. Wait until it is very hot to start frying the empanadas. To test if it’s hot enough, sink the handle of a wooden spoon into the center of the oil. If bubbles are made, it is ready to fry.
- Fry up to 4 empanadas at a time so it doesn’t get crowded and stick to each other. As soon as they turn golden brown, remove and let cool in a plate. You can add some napkins so they absorb the extra oil.
I personaly liked them when they are a bit cold, but you can have them as hot or cold as you want. Hope you enjoy them! Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.