Empanadas.
Crisp and golden: Empanadas are the rightful new stars of our tapas bars. Photo: Edwina Pickles

What are they?

Spanish and Latin American pastries stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables, and baked or fried until crisp and golden. They are common in Portugal, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Their name comes from the Spanish verb ''empanar'', to wrap in bread. Empanadas are the rightful new stars of our tapas bars and Latin-American diners.

Argentinian Street Food (Murdoch Books, $29.99), a cookbook devoted to empanadas and helados (ice-cream) is out this week. Its authors, Enrique Zanoni and Gaston Stivelmaher, of the Clasico Argentino restaurant chain in Paris, call empanadas ''synonymous with improvisation, celebration, friends and family''.

Where are they?

In Sydney, Colombian-born Simon Jaramillo serves little more than coffee and warm house-made empanadas of chorizo, beef or tuna at his passion-driven coffee laboratory, the Reformatory in Surry Hills.

Not far away, Nomad chef Nathan Sasi brines Melanda Park pork shoulders for six days, smokes them for eight hours, shreds and mixes the meat with confit pork shank and a sofrito of capsicum, onion and garlic, wrapping it in lard-based pastry before deep-frying it and serving it with hot sauce.

''Everyone loves the contrast between the soft, moist stuffing inside and the crisp outside,'' Sasi says.

In Melbourne, homesick Chileans line up for their empanada hit at La Morenita in Sunshine North, where a special seafood empanada is planned for Easter.

At San Telmo in the CBD, its rich, traditional beef, egg and olive empanadas have run hot since opening day.

''They're cute, easy to approach, easy to handle and fun to eat,'' says co-owner Dave Parker. ''I was even thinking of opening a little empanada takeaway at one stage.'' We would encourage that.

Why do I care?

Because they are great with a beer, for brunch, for parties and to take on picnics.

Can I do them at home?

Make or buy the pastry, cook the filling, fold and seal, then bake in the oven or deep-fry.

Tuna, green olive and egg empanadas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green capsicum, chopped

1 green chilli, sliced

200g canned chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp smoked paprika

sea salt

cracked pepper

225g tuna in oil, drained

8 green olives, roughly chopped

2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp lemon juice

4 sheets shortcrust pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

1. Heat the olive oil and cook the onion, capsicum and chilli for 10 minutes until softened.

2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, sea salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes or until thick and sludgy.

3. Fold in the tuna, olives, hard-boiled eggs, parsley and lemon juice and leave to cool.

4. Heat the oven to 200C. Place the pastry on a work bench and cut into 10cm (small) or 13cm (medium) circles. Place one tablespoon of filling on each one, brush the edges with water, and bring them together to seal. Crimp them with the tines of a fork, brush the tops with beaten egg and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Eat warm.

Makes 8 to 10

  • See a photo gallery about how to fold and edge empanadas here.

Sourcing

NSW

Nomad 16 Foster Street, Surry Hills, 9280 3395, restaurantnomad.com.au; The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Shop 7B, 17-51 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills, 9212 5511, facebook.com/thereformatory

VIC

La Morenita, 67 Berkshire Road, Sunshine North, 03 9311 2911, latinfoodsandwines.com.au; San Telmo, 14 Meyers Place, Melbourne, 03 9650 5525, santelmo.com.au