...there's both eatin' and drinkin' in it

Spud Sunday: A Chilean Tale

Bernardo O’Higgins is big in Chile. As are spuds, with Chile hotly disputing Peru’s right to claim their country as the one who gave birth to the potato.

I was reminded of O’Higgins earlier this week, when it was my good fortune to be the guest of Santa Rita wines at the launch of their Local Heroes campaign. Son of an Irishman, O’Higgins was born in Chile in 1778 and was destined to become the first leader of a fully independent Chilean state. That his Da may have emigrated to Chile from Ireland in search of the ancestral home of the spud is a matter of pure speculation.

At the Santa Rita Local Heroes launch

At the Local Heroes launch: somebody tell that woman she's supposed to be drinking wine

One story has it that, while fighting the good fight for Chilean independence, Bernardo and his men, 120 in number, hid out in the cellars of the Santa Rita winery. They may or may not have helped themselves to a few bottles of vino while they were there. The Santa Rita folks clearly didn’t mind, however, because they have not only named a range of wines in their honour (that would be the Santa Rita 120 range), they have also invited the people of Ireland to tell them all about their own local heroes. One such local hero will be the recipient of a €10,000 prize to spend within their community, while said hero and the person who nominated them will also win a trip to Chile to visit the Santa Rita winery. Nice.

For more details and to nominate, head over to the Santa Rita 120 facebook page.

  Print It

Local Hero Empanadas with Potato & Tomato Filling

Potato Empanadas

Speaking of things that are big in Chile, according to this New York Times article, Chileans are truly passionate about empanadas – little pastry turnovers with fillings which can be meaty, fishy, veggie or cheesy. I couldn’t resist giving a potato-filled version a whirl.

For the dough, I used as my guide a recipe for empanada dough that I found on Epicurious. Though I understand that lard would probably be more traditional, this dough, which uses butter, worked a treat. I would definitely consider making a big batch of this and then freezing individual empanada-sized portions.

For the potato filling, I can’t claim it’s entirely Chilean in origin. The tomato base into which the potatoes went was inspired by an Indian tomato sauce by Madhur Jaffrey. I happened to use small, waxy potatoes for this, which meant that the little cubes of potato retained their shape, whereas floury spuds would tend to break apart a bit more. Either works.

For the dough:
  • 300g plain flour
  • 125g cold unsalted butter, cut into approx. 1cm cubes
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tblsp distilled white vinegar
  • 60ml ice water
For the filling:
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 150g red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 400g fresh tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large fresh green chili, finely chopped
  • 350g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into approx 1cm cubes
  • 0.75 tsp salt or to taste, plus freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tblsp loosely packed chopped coriander leaves
  • olive oil for frying
You’ll also need:
  • 2 large baking sheets (my 35cm x 40cm baking sheet fit about 8 empanadas – the recipe makes 12 in total)
The Dough Steps:
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt together well.
  • Rub the butter into the flour until the texture resembles coarse meal, but with some larger (approx. pea-sized) lumps of butter remaining.
  • In a small bowl, beat together the egg, vinegar and water.
  • Add the egg mixture to the flour, stirring with a fork until just combined – the mixture will look a bit shaggy.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface and gather together – kneading gently once or twice just to bring things together.
  • Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.
The Filling Steps:
  • Place a large pan over a medium heat. When it’s hot, add enough oil to just coat the pan. Add the mustard seeds.
  • Once the mustard seeds start sizzling and begin to pop, which should only take a few seconds, add the onion. Stir and fry for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, chili and ginger and stir and fry for another 2 minutes or so, until the onions start to soften.
  • Now add the tomatoes, potatoes, salt and a couple of twists of black pepper. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for around 25 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.
  • Stir in the chopped coriander and leave the filling to cool.
The Put It All Together Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 200C
  • Take the chilled dough from the fridge and divide into 12 roughly even pieces.
  • To make each empanada, take one of the pieces of dough, leaving the remaining pieces covered in the fridge, and shape into a ball. I did find my dough to be ever so slightly tacky but nothing that rolling with a little flour didn’t fix.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the ball out into a disc, roughly 12cm in diameter.
  • Place 2-3 tblsp of the filling on one side of the dough circle, leaving 1cm to 2cm between the filling and the edge of the dough. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling, giving a roughly semi-circular shape, and press the edges together. If you like, you can decorate the edges by pressing down on them with the tines of a fork. Place the empanada on a floured baking tray and repeat the process with the rest of the dough and filling.
  • If you like, you can brush the empanadas with some beaten egg or milk.
  • Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature, with salads and maybe sour cream or a sweet tomato relish.
The Variations:
  • Next time I think I will try stirring some cottage cheese through the filling to give it some added moistness.
  • If you reckon that small is beautiful, then you could divide the dough into 24 pieces and make empanadillas instead.
The Results:
  • Makes 12 empanadas and you’ll be feeling a bit heroic after putting in all of the effort required!


  1. jenn

    Not much a fan of using lard, so I use butter for my empanada dough, too.

    That’s a neat story. Hiding out in a wine cellar sounds like fun.

  2. Tangled Noodle

    Such beautifully golden empanadas! The only ones I’ve made so far involved frozen, premade puff pastry – not quite the same as these lovely pies. My recollection of Filipino empanadas are that they were filled with ground meat, raisins and . . . potatoes! Now, which of the Santa Rita wines would you pair with this? 8-)

    Enjoyed the link to the O’Higgins of Chile story!

  3. mghrte

    There’s a memorial to Ambrose O’Higgins, native to Sligo and father of Bernardo, visible from my office.

  4. gastroanthropologist

    Lovely story! Oh, Empanadas…would love one of those hot out of the oven. Looks delicious.

  5. Jenni

    What a cool contest. You go, Santa Rita Wine folk!

    I do love me some empanadas. They’re the South American version of samosas. Which I also love. Potatoes wrapped in dough? Don’t mind if I do!

  6. sippitysup

    Empanadas are very common in street carts here, but I have never seen such a pretty one as these. GREG

  7. Sophie

    Your empanada’s look excellent to me,..I so love your filling too,…


  8. Daily Spud

    jenn: it does sound like fun, doesn’t it!

    Tangled Noodle: well, I think you would have to have some wine with these, really – I’m sure Santa Rita have something suitable in their cellars :)

    mghrte: aha, Sligo strikes again I see

    gastroanthropologist: wish I had some left, wouldn’t mind some hot out of the oven now myself!

    Jenni: potatoes wrapped in dough, sure what’s not to like? :D

    sippitysup: you flatter me sir :)

    Sophie: why thank you dear

  9. Bystander

    Hello from Chile! You would never find potatoes in an empanada here, but they look very good anyway. The most common filling is “pino”, a mixture of mince and onion. Cheese ones are often made with puff pastry. Seafood ones are popular too.
    Sitting firmly on the fence here, you find the small, multi-coloured ancestor of today’s potato on the island of Chiloe, Chile and in the highlands of Perú.

  10. Daily Spud

    Hello Bystander, thanks so much for stopping by and filling us in with a little local empanada and potato knowledge. Much appreciated!

  11. Bystander

    Nice to find your blog! I am enjoying the recipes.
    Encourage everyone to go in for the contest. That is a great vineyard in a gorgeous setting with a fantastic restaurant. If anyone there wins I will buy them the best empanada in Santiago when they come! How’s that for added incentive!

  12. Butter

    I have died and gone to heaven – these are so ridiculously delicious! I made these tonight my friend….you are officially my hero! I added bacon and instead of the cottage cheese in the variations I added white cheddar….OMG!!! Will Tweet a pic…Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!
    – Butter

  13. Daily Spud

    Hey Butter, thank you and love what you’ve done to the empanadas! We’re heroes all ’round :)

  14. Butter

    Hello there Daily Spud – I came back to this page to get this recipe again! I can’t wait to make these again :) They have been on my mind forever!

© 2024 The Daily Spud

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑