Porteno's 'Recipes for a Good Time'

Crunchy savoury pillows ... Empanadas.
Crunchy savoury pillows ... Empanadas. 

Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz are probably the best known purveyors of Argentinian fare in Sydney at their relentlessly packed-out venues Bodega, Porteno and Gardel’s Bar. They have just released a new cookbook, Recipes for a Good Time.

Empanadas de carne

Filling
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, minced
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
Fine sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
600 g minced chuck steak
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
60 g pitted black olives, chopped

Dough
100 g ghee
500 g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
250 ml warm water
Cottonseed oil, for deep-frying

Recipes for a Good Time by Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz.
Recipes for a Good Time by Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz. 

Make the filling
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat then fry your onion  until softened. Add the spices and cook, stirring for a further  five minutes then add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the mince, for 30 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the meat is just starting to fry. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Fold through the eggs and olives and refrigerate to chill.

Make the dough
Melt the ghee  over a low heat. Put the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix to combine. Mix the melted ghee and water in a jug. Leave the mixer running on a low speed, and gradually add the ghee mixture to the flour until a dough forms. Add another splash or two of water if the dough feels too dry or crumbly. Set aside to rest for one hour. Quarter the dough and roll out to a 2.3 millimetre thickness and cut rounds using a lightly floured 15-centimetre round cutter.

Fill and fry the empanadas
Holding a round of dough in one hand, wet the outer edge then place  two tablespoons of the filling in the centre. Fold the dough over the filling to make a half moon, then press the edges together and fold the lip over itself, pressing and pleating as you go. Fill a deep heavy-based saucepan a third full (no more) with oil, and heat  to 170C. Deep-fry the empanadas in batches for  4 minutes, or until golden. Drain on paper towel then serve.
Makes 30

Chimichurri

The drop-dead delicious Argentinian sauce for grilled meat is given the Ben and Elvis treatment.

250 ml blended oil (95 per cent canola + 5 per cent extra virgin)
100 ml white wine
vinegar
55 g flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes (or more or less, according to your taste)
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all of the ingredients, except the salt and pepper, in a food processor and pulse until a coarse paste forms. Season to taste then refrigerate until required. This will keep for a couple of weeks. The colour will change, but that's OK. It will still taste really good. Makes 400 ml.

Barbecue  peppers and eggplant

This South American-inspired dish is fantastic with  grilled meats.

8 red bullhorn capsicums
Extra virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 eggplants

We like to barbecue our vegetables when the coals have reached their highest heat. Cook the capsicums on a grill  quite low over the coals until their skins turn black all over.  Transfer them to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Steaming them for a few minutes like this makes it easier to remove the skins. Once they have cooled a little, remove all their skin and seeds, dress  heavily with some extra virgin olive oil, a few pinches of salt and the sliced garlic.

The same principle applies to barbecuing eggplant, but you need to  prick the skins with a fork before cooking otherwise they will explode. Cook on a grill  placed quite low over the coals for around 10 minutes on each side, ensuring the skins burn; this adds a smoky flavour. Remove from the barbecue then rest on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. To remove the flesh, slice the tops off the eggplants then split them in half lengthways. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and dress with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Serve the eggplant and capsicums together on a platter.

Recipes and images from Recipes for a Good Time by Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz published by Murdoch Books, $59.99, photographer Anson Smart.