Empanadas are a classic example of Spanish food, hailing from the region of Galicia in the North-West of Spain. These bread pies are filled with various fillings including meat, fish, cheese and vegetables, and even fruit to create a dessert version of the dish. The popularity of this simple Spanish recipe has meant that the dish has spread throughout the world and many different varieties can be found.
However, there can be no doubt that the humble empanada pasty is a true icon of Galician gastronomy. Furthermore, within Galicia there are many variations and every family, bar and restaurant claims to have the best recipe for empanadas. So if you visit Spain, make sure you go to Galicia and try them all! This particular recipe includes pork loin but you could always replace it with chicken or beef depending on your tastes.
The history of these Spanish bread pies dates back to medieval times during the time of the Moors in Spain. It is believed that the Spanish version of the dish actually derives from the Arabic pies called samosas. They were first mentioned in literature in a Catalan cookbook called 'Libre del Coch' published in 1520 by Ruperto de Nola who wrote about empanadas with seafood fillings. The word empanada comes from the Spanish verb 'empanar' which those of you who learn spanish in Spain will know means to wrap or coat in bread, referring to the way the Spanish pie is made.
In Galicia and parts of Portugal, the empanada pasty is prepared like a large pie which is then eaten by cutting it into pieces. Fillings in the region tend to consist of fish such as tuna or sardines, or meat such as pork loin or chorizo, and are normally accompanied by a tomato, onion and garlic sauce.
Empanadas have also become very popular in Latin America which is thanks to the large number of Galician immigrants who settled on the continent. The empanada gallega is therefore quite easy to find in many countries across South America, and many countries have their own versions of the dish.