Empanada Gallega de Atun: Savory Tuna Stuffed Pastry from Galicia

When I first moved to Barcelona, I was very wary about tuna empanadas.  I come from Colombia, where we have beef, chicken, or cheese empanadas, but never tuna.  And also, the format is individual style, as opposed to this baked “pie” version.

But, as time went by, this was served at parties, as a tapa, or as a main course.  And when I tried it, I fell in love.  I love that the tuna stays moist and tender because of the sofrito.  And I thought that it was going to taste overly fishy, since the tuna is cooked.  But no, what I found was this delectable, moist and utterly delicious pastry.  The only problem, is that you can get really bad ones more than you get really, really good ones.

So I decided to make my own.  When you read the recipe, you might think, that is A LOT of oil.  But don’t worry.  Once you finish cooking the veggies, you use the oil for the dough, to give it that wonderful reddish color.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the pieced out portions, since my fabulous oven decided to act up again, and the top of the crust baked beautifully, but apparently it didn’t feel like cooking the underside.  I think I am going to have to ask my landlord for a new oven.

But, in my house nothing is thrown away.  We ate the top and the filling, and it was delicious!  But that just doesn’t make a pretty picture.

Anyhow, so here’s what you’re going to need:

For the “Sofrito”:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 cup oil from your tuna can

2 small onions, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 tsp Pimenton or Sweet Paprika

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp Italian parsley, minced

500 g good quality tin tuna

20 anchovy stuffed olives halved (if you can’t find those, pimento stuffed olives will do)

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

For the dough:

600 g flour

30 g instant yeast

300 ml warm water

12 tbsp oil, from your sofrito (this will give the dough a fantastic color)

2 pinches of salt

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220 C (415 F).  In a large frying pan, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until just softening.  Add the red pepper, cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the green pepper, tomatoes, pimenton, salt and raise the heat to medium.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t brown or burn.

When the veggies are very soft, strain the vegetables and reserve the oil.  You’re going to use it for the dough.  Let them cool a bit and add the parsley, tuna, black peppers and olives.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, add your flour.  Make a well in the center and add the yeast water.  With the hook attachment, mix on low until just incorporated.  Add the oil and salt and mix on medium speed to incorporate, and then mix on low for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and glossy.

Let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with a dish towel for about an hour.

Dust a clean work surface with flour, and place your dough on top.  Cut in half, one is going to be the top and the other the bottom.  From the one that you are going to make the top out of, cut off a small plum sized piece, and reserve for later.

Roll out your bottom (larger piece) into a rectangle that is 2mm thick (or circle if that is the dish you are using) to fit your baking dish.  Grease your baking dish with some oil, and place the rolled out dough into it.  The dough should hang over the sides.  Add the tuna mix, and top with the sliced egg.

Now roll out your top dough, 2mm thick.  Cut the over hanging edges, and fold over and press to seal.   Then make a hole in the center to let the steam out, and decorate with the remaining pieces of dough.  Glaze the top with egg wash.

Bake in a 200 C (400 F) oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool slightly before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,


Tunisian Egg Brik with Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

I was in Tunisia many, many moons ago.  I don’t remember much of Tunisian food, since I was staying with a Korean American family.  Actually, on that trip I learned how to make some amazing scrambled eggs from my friend Alexi Weden’s dad, and her gorgeous mother made me a Kimchee addict.  I remember seeing lots of goat carcasses hanging from hooks in the butcher stands on the side of the road, and one memorable dinner at Chez Nous, in Tunis.  I know for sure I did not have a brik, of any kind.

If you are not familiar with Brik, it kind of looks like a crepe, but it is crispier and lends itself to frying and baking quite easily.  The proper term for it is Malsouqa, but Brik is the tunisian derivative of the Turkish word Borek, which is basically a savory stuffed pastry.  Whichever way you decide to call it, it’s delicious.

A few nights ago at work, we did a dish using Brik pastry.  So, I thought, I have never, ever had Brik with egg.  And you know how I feel about eggs now.  So, I marched myself to the store and got a package of Brik, and today for lunch, made Brik a L’oeuf.  It is really really simple to make, and you can use whatever fillings you want.  I wanted a filling reminiscent of my Turkish/Egyptian/Syrian background, so I chose spinach and then a couple of spices that I brought back from Turkey on my last visit.  I looooooved my brik.  I think it will absolutely be a hit at the next dinner party, and with the spinach, mushrooms and fresh tomato, it gives you a vitamin packed punch, too.

So here is what you’re going to need for one person:

1 sheet of Brik pastry

1 egg, plus one egg yolk (if you don’t want a lot of yolk, just use one egg)

Egg white from one egg, lightly beaten

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

2 cremini mushrooms, halved and sliced

1/4 tomato, chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil, plus 1/4 cup for frying

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp aleppo pepper

1 tsp sumac

salt and pepper to taste

squeeze of lemon juice

In a medium saute pan over medium, add your 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Saute for 5 minutes, raise heat to high, and add your mushrooms.  Don’t worry if your shallot starts to brown.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until your mushrooms are golden brown, then add your spinach and saute until wilted.  If you need to add a little bit more olive oil, by all means do.  Take off heat and add your spices, salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon.  Place into a bowl and let cool slightly.  In the meantime, in a large skillet, pour in your 1/4 cup oil and start heating it up over medium high heat.

Take your sheet of Brik and place on a clean work surface.

Place your spinach mixture in the center, spreading it out a little and make a well in the center for your egg.

Now add your whole egg plus the egg yolk.

Now start folding up the sides, and brush each side with your beaten egg yolk and press to seal.

Once it is all folded up and sealed, your oil should be hot enough.  Carefully lift with a wide spatula and place in the hot oil, and fry for about 3 minutes.

With another spatula, carefully flip it over, and fry on the other side, for another 3 minutes.  If you want your eggs less runny, then fry for 5 minutes, and so on and so forth.  When it is done, place on a plate with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.  Serve immediately.  Oh!  Don’t forget your bread to sop up all that delicious yolk.

Bon Appetit!

From my kitchen to yours,