The following evening, I booked Tom and myself onto a cooking class, hosted by Air bnb experiences, called ‘Caught Red Handed’, and it certainly made for an unforgettable night.
We got a taxi to the place, which was on the edge of Palermo. We were giving a big Argentinian greeting by our host Adri, who pulled us both in for a hug and two pecks on each cheek. As a naturally cuddly person, I love this style of greeting, and Adri remarked that he was surprised that two English people were so accepting, as the stereotype is stiff upper lip and a handshake. Jolly good.
We walked in to the beautiful apartment and were further greeted by couple from Philadelphia who were on their honeymoon, and were taking the experience with us. In the kitchen, fervently dicing onions was our second host Ani, who had been stuck in traffic and was worried she was going to miss the class. Adri then offered Tom and I some red wine, and generously filled our glasses. Our hosts supplied us with a charcuterie board with nibbles that were locally sourced from a farm that is only open to the public one day a week, and Adri said he literally had to fight and elbow people out of the way for the cheese, bread, cured meat and olives (you could totally taste why it was worth it, oh my god, I’m the biggest sucker for quality food). Finally, the last remaining couple arrived, two girls from Hong Kong who came to Buenos Aires to further their education of tango.
Our attention was brought over to the kitchen, where all the ingredients were laid out on plates. Ani proceeded to explain the varieties of ingredients all over the country in Spanish, with Adri translating. In the Buenos Aires province, it is more likely the empanadas will have beef, olives, and egg, seasoned with salt and cumin. Down south, in Patagonia, there are more sheep than cows, so they use Patagonian Lamb in their empanadas. Up in the north, in places such as Salta and Jujuy we were told they would use potatoes and in some cases fish. In the province above Buenos Aires, around Cordoba, strangely some of their empanadas are found to be made with sugar and raisins, and are more for dessert.
All the ingredients we were using that night had all been diced, a phrase they called; ‘by the knife’, and Ani started cooking the onions and minced beef, salting and adding cumin it while it was in the pan to bring out more flavour. She added the cooked boiled egg that had been diced, to the meat. When all the ingredients were cooked to juicy flavour-fullness, she took the pan off the heat. She explained that the olives had to be added once the empanada filling cool, else the olives would cook and the flavour would change. More wine was offered while the filling cooled (I think this was my 4th large glass?) and the conversation flowed about Argentina. Next came the fun bit.
Ani then showed us how to put the filling inside the pastry and crimp the edges. She did it with lighting speed and precision. Next Adri handed us all a plate with a circle of pastry for us all to attempt to make our first ever empanada. You spoon some filling onto the circle then wet around the pastry edges with water. Now, I consider myself to be quite adept with pastry, I make it from scratch at home for all sorts of things, like cornish pasties and fruit pies … but my first empanada came out rather wonky, whilst Tom’s was a work of accurate perfection. We were given two more attempts, and Adri turned it into a game of who could finish first and who was the most improved (i’ll let you decide which ones are mine from the pictures). Our anemic looking pre-cooked empanadas were turned over to Ani who had started deep frying them to a delicious golden brown. It’s very important ¡MUY IMPORTANTE! that the oil frying the empanadas is not boiling hot. Next came the bit we’d all been waiting for…
Biting into that beautifully crisp fresh empanada, that was super juicy (¡jugoso!) and the flavours were just incredible. All the ingredients had become deletably melt in the mouth, and the pastry had not become greasy as Ani the super chef timed them just right. The meaty savoury flavour was too good, especially paired with the local red wine. Surprisingly filling as well, Tom and I managed to eat two each, meaning we had two more to take back to our apartment (perfect to curb that red wine hangover that was looming on my horizon).
It was a superb evening for one of the last nights we had in Buenos Aires. I now, genuinely see my life goal is to take a cooking class in every country. Before coming to Argentina, was about 90% set on flying myself to Bordeaux for a few days to learn about French pastry(!) and a few months before that, Tom and I had booked onto Pizza Making course in Brooklyn, NYC but it was unfortunately cancelled the day before. Its a real passion of mine to learn about a countries culture through cuisine, as there is only so much you can learn in museums and history books. It’s no secret, I’m a big foodie and I love being welcomed in by a local and being shown their lifestyle and regional cooking. Netflix series anyone?
Upcoming post: 25 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Came to Argentina !