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Wednesday
Jul132011

Empanadas that make you open your legs in Córdoba

It is official, I am a strumpet! I have been opening my legs all over Córdoba for the meatiest, juiciest, most tantalising and delicious empanadas that Argentina has to give. Sweet or salty, baked or fried – I’ll take ’em anyway they come or all at once if the mood takes me.

For those of you who did not read my post on BA – where I was keeping my legs firmly shut – or who did but were not curious enough about this provocative choice of words to click on the link, Chris Moss writes that “a good meat empanada always makes a diner open his or her legs. The reason: because the juice should drip out when you sink your teeth in.”

I have since been told that the secret to a juicy empanada is to make the filling with lard, let it cool so that the lard sets and then fill the pastry with the cold mixture. If the filling is cold it will be easy to handle and won’t run everywhere, but when the empanada is cooked the lard will melt and cause this sort of mess on your plate:

(or between your legs)

So if Córdoba has the best empanadas, where are the best of the best? I met up with some Córdobeses, Nati and Mariano, who I met through couchsurfing and they took me to one of Nati’s favourite local restaurants, Cepa Salteña, for regional cuisine.

The empanadas were fried – piping hot and perfectly crisp – and the meat was salty and juicy with a hint of spice. It was also the first time that I had seen egg and olives in an empanada since arriving in Argentina – a traditional filling in the North West and the way my dad taught me to make them. They served the empanadas with a lovely tomato salsa which Nati told me was “muy picante” (very hot) but I had already learnt by then that “muy picante” by Argentine standards is mildly spicy by mine so I piled it on and it was delicious!

I also tried locro, a stew made from corn, pumpkin and kidney beans with bits of sausage and pork. I wasn’t particularly taken by it; the texture was gluggy and it was lacking the hearty, meaty taste I would have expected from a stew cooked with off cuts of pork which, although chewy and grissly, usually impart a lot more flavour.

Thinking that I ought to preserve some dignity, I went in search of something different for lunch the following day. The Lonely Planet recommends an Arabic restaurant called Qa’ra and specifically the picada (mezze plate) which it describes as “a journey in deliciousness”.

As it turned out, the first course of the mezze selection was empanadas árabes (Arabic empanadas) so no sooner had I sat down than I was opening my legs once more. Well, I couldn’t say no, could I? The addition of lemon and cumin and a triangular shape marks these out from the traditional Argentine empanada and they were mighty fine too, but my heart lies with the Córdobeses.

The other dishes included 3 dips – hummous, baba ganoush and labne – a rather dry roast keppe (kibbeh) and some delicious, if a little overly citrusy, dolmades. The kibbeh also came crudo (raw) but I asked for a double portion of the roast version as I wasn’t sure whether eating raw meat was a good idea in that particular restaurant which, although perfectly pleasant, looked as though it was somewhat lax on hygiene.

Dessert was one of the best baklavas I’ve had in ages. I live near Green Lanes in London, the centre of a predominantly Turkish community; if one is going to get a good baklava anywhere in London it would be there or on the Kingsland Rd in Dalston. But every now and then I drop into one of the Turkish patisseries for a baklava and I am inevitably disappointed. It is either too sweet or too soggy, stingy on nuts or all three. This, on the other hand, was spot on; crisp pastry, light on the syrup with a hint of rose water essence. Washed down with the Turkish coffee it was a delightful end to a satisfying meal.

That night, my appetite whet, I couldn’t help myself and went off in search of more juicy, meaty things. La Candela, like Nati’s local, specialises in regional cuisine and had been recommended specifically for their empanadas al horno (literally from the oven, i.e. baked) which came with a variety of fillings. They had three variations of beef, my preference, so I went for one of each: dulce (sweet), picante (spicy) and árabe.

I had thought when it said “dulce” that they were distinguishing between the empanadas in the same way as the Italians do with Gorgonzola cheese, where dulce is not sweet but means mild in comparison to the maturer picante. As it turns out they did in fact mean that my beef empanada would be sweet, a rather bizarre taste sensation but more unexpected than unpleasant. According to Amanda Barnes, “Cordoba is famous for its sweet tooth, and their empanadas are no different – with sugar and raisins added to their meat.” I wouldn’t order it again but I am glad I tried it.

The other meals I had in Córdoba were fairly forgettable; an overcooked and not very fresh seafood stew at La Rías de Galicia (incidentally the Lonely Planet's “our pick”- losing them all the brownie points they had previously earned with the successful recommendations) and an overcooked steak with undercooked potatoes at La Parilla de Raul.  Forgettable and decidedly unjuicy - nothing to get a girl going.

I am chaste once again. 

 

Cepa Salteña Arturo M Bas N 81 (near Paseo Sobremonte)

 

Qa´ra – Paraná 206 (between Entre Ríos y Corrientes), Ph: +54 (0) 351 421 1679 or +54 351 517 0163

 

La Candela – Duarte Quiros 67, Ph: +54 (0) 351 420 1517

 

La Rías de Galicia – Montevideo 271 , +54 (0) 351 428 1333

 

La Parilla de Raul – Bv San Juan 72, Ph: +54 (0) 351 421 4730

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Reader Comments (3)

Wow all looks delicious!! and you know the title tickled me (between my legs - of course!) xx

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmba

Never thought I'd be encouraging my daughter to be a strumpet - but here's hoping you bring back some of those empanada recipes and recreate them for us ...yumm yumm

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMa

Hi Amba-lady, I thought that might get you going! Hope to see some more cakey goodness soon. x

Hi Ma, I'm afraid I didn't get any recipes, which is sad. I will have to see if I can find a good South American cookbook. A life without empanadas would be chaste indeed :) x

July 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterVix

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