Empanadas are to backpackers what baked beans are to students. A staple. They are also the most common street food snack in Argentina. Their abundance and value for money mean it’s quite possible to have empanadas every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and stay well within budget. I wouldn’t advise it however; you may well save a few pounds, but you’ll probably start piling them on in unwelcome places!
You can’t walk down the street without passing an empanada vendor, showing off their tasty pastry snacks. The quality is nearly always excellent and the choice of flavours provides welcome variety; from the traditional carne (meat) and jamon y queso (our personal fave) to the unusual calamares or the exotic Italian flavours of caprese. It’s true – the Italians get everywhere. More on that later…
Empanadas are such an important part of Argentinian culture and cuisine, we wanted to have hands-on experience of making and trying our own. Keen to find a traditional recipe that we could learn and share, and after some searching, I stumbled across the lovely Norma. A psychotherapist by trade, Norma has taken her passion and talent for cooking and built a successful business by inviting people into her home to enjoy an authentic cooking experience. She believes cooking is a therapeutic activity; encouraging creativity and escapism. Like us, she also appreciates how much you can learn about a culture through their cuisine.
Norma’s cooking class was an intimate affair, with a small yet varied menu comprising 3 traditional Argentinian dishes; Tapioca Cheese Rolls, Empanadas, and Alfajores. We discussed the changes and challenges of the Argentine economy, as well as the traditional roots of the Argentine cuisine. Norma also invited us to share a mate with her, a local Argentine ritual practiced all over the country.
My favourite part of the class was making (and eating!) the empanadas. We learnt how to make the pastry and roll it out into the right shape and size, create a satisfying meaty filling and – most challenging of all – stuff, fold and twist them to produce the most beautiful little parcels. I was anything but a natural at the latter. My first attempt looked more like dim-sum…but with Norma by my side, I eventually mastered the art of creating perfectly formed empanadas.
Norma’s cookery class is an absolute must for anyone wanting to indulge in local Argentinian culture, and we feel very lucky to have been so warmly welcomed into her home. Her empanada recipe is definitely one we will be taking home to recreate the taste of Argentina, over and over again. Try them for yourself!
You can follow Norma @argentinecooknorma