Tuna empanada, or empanada de atún, is a typical dish in Galicia, the autonomous community in the northwest of Spain. It’s different from the individual meat or veg pies you’d find in Argentina. Empanadas from Galicia fill an entire baking pan, and consist of one layer of dough, one layer of filling and a thinner top layer of dough that’s brushed with egg yolk to give it a glossy sheen. The first time I tried a slice of one of these savory treats was at the end of the Camino de Santiago, when I arrived (by bus – I kinda cheated – so?) in Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of Galicia. I had heard it was a beautiful city, with narrow streets, historic buildings and breathtaking cathedrals. I had heard I would be overwhelmed by witnessing the emotional climax of thousands of fatigued but ecstatic pilgrims, pouring into the city after weeks or months of traveling by foot across the various terrains of Spain. But nobody told me about the snacks. So let me fill you in on the snack situation. In Santiago de Compostela, every drink order, even at breakfast, comes with a totally decent-sized snack. I’m not talking a little dish of olives. At breakfast, your cafe con leche is served with a delicious, fresh-baked, adult-sized pastry. And at lunch, your vino tinto is served with a totally respectable salty snack, like the star of today’s post: tuna empanada.
I never ventured to make the tuna empanada in the past – the dough, the layers … it seemed to call for a high degree of expertise. But with confidence bolstered by several recent bouts of binge-watching the Great British Baking Show on Netflix, I resolved to try my hand at the empanada dough. And master that dough I did. See for yourself:
This recipe comes from one of my favorite fellow Spanish food bloggers, Lauren of Spanish Sabores. Also, insider tip: Lauren offers customized food tours in Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Malaga, so if you’re heading to the Iberian peninsula, definitely check out her websites.
Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with good food and QT with the family and friends. Cocinamos!
Adapted from Spanish Sabores:
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup Spanish hard cider (a dry cider) or a dry white wine * I used a Belgian-style golden ale and was pleased with the result
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2¼ cups of flour (plus more to roll the dough later) * I substituted whole wheat flour – the dough was fine in terms of density, though when I do it again I’ll do a thinner bottom layer
- 1 egg, white separated from yolk, reserving both in separate bowls
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 cup of jarred,roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
- 1.5 cups of canned tomato sauce * I used Trader Joe brand
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 14 ounces of canned tuna, drained * I used tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil
- 24 chopped green olives (the manzanilla variety if buying in Spain)
- 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste (you can always mash up a cured anchovy here)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher salt to taste
- Beat the egg in a large bowl and add in the baking soda, olive oil, wine, cider or beer and salt.
- Add in the flour, little by little, and when it gets too difficult to continue mixing with a fork, use your hands. It should be a soft dough (but not sticky). Make it into a ball and cover in plastic wrap for one hour at room temperature.
filling + assembly
- Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the onions until soft and starting to caramelize. Add in the roasted red peppers and fry for another two minutes or so, and then add the tomato sauce.
- Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often.
- Add in the tuna, chopped olives, chopped eggs, Worcestershire sauce (or anchovy paste), honey and paprika. Taste and add salt to taste.
- Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and divide the dough in half, with one half slightly bigger than the other. Grease an 11 inch pan with oil or butter and roll out the larger half of the dough so that will completely cover the bottom of the pan and the edges.
- Using your rolling pin (or flour-covered empty wine bottom, if you’re like me and lost your rolling pin), transfer the dough to the pan and gently mold it to fit the pan without stretching the dough. Trim the edges if necessary.
- Beat the egg white and brush over the the dough.
- Bake the base for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool.
- Once cool enough (10 to 15 minutes) cover with the tuna filling.
- Roll the other half of the dough large enough the cover the top of the empanada and make sure the edges meet.
- Brush the empanada with the beaten egg yolk mixed with one teaspoon of water.
- Bake in the oven for 40 minutes and serve hot or cold.