Cook this: Bolivian-style turnovers — salteñas — from The Latin American Cookbook

‘The flat-bottomed salteña, with its stewed interior, is like the soup dumpling of empanadas,’ says Virgilio Martínez

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Our cookbook of the week is The Latin American Cookbook by Virgilio Martínez. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with the author.


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Living somewhere “between a soup dumpling and a calzone,” chef Virgilio Martínez considers these Bolivian-style turnovers the tastiest of all empanadas: “Salteñas are the best.”

Though they hail from Bolivia, their origins are Argentine. Exiled 19th-century writer Juana Manuela Gorriti — who was born in Salta, Argentina — created the type of empanada as a means of making a living in her new home of Potosí, Bolivia.

Locals dubbed Gorriti’s popular stew-filled pockets “la Salteña,” translating as “the woman from Salta.” Word of the baked empanadas spread throughout Bolivia, Martínez writes in The Latin American Cookbook , and there are now many regional variations.

“Bolivian food is amazing,” says Martínez. “The street food scene is great. You see these salteñas on the streets with street vendors. They are quite iconic.”


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The Latin American Cookbook: Virgilio Martinez
The Latin American Cookbook is Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez’s second book. Photo by Phaidon



Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

For the dough:
5 cups (1 lb 7 oz/650 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 mL) melted butter
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/120 mL) warm water with 1/2 tbsp salt added
1 whole egg, beaten, to glaze

For the filling:
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/120 mL) melted lard
2 white onions, chopped
1 fresh ají amarillo (see note), chopped
1 lb (450 g) ground beef (or use shredded chicken)
5 cups (40 fl oz/1.2 L) beef stock
1 gelatin leaf, soaked in ice-cold water
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
6 peeled and boiled potatoes, cut in small cubes
1 cup (4 1/2 oz/130 g) cooked peas
1 tbsp ají amarillo paste (see note)
Salt and ground pepper


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Step 1

Heat the lard for the filling in a large frying pan until very hot. Sauté the onions and fresh chili for 8 minutes or until soft and brown. Add the beef, cook for 4 minutes then pour in the stock with the squeezed-out gelatin and let it simmer for about 35 minutes. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat. Add the potatoes and peas and place in the refrigerator until needed.

Step 2

For the dough, mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the egg yolks and slowly stir in the warm, salted water. Knead into a soft and uniform dough with your hands, then place on a floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin to a thin sheet, about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.


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Step 3

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4).

Step 4

Using a 4 1/2-inch (11-cm) round cutter, stamp out discs from the dough and place on a lined baking sheet. Place a full tablespoon of the filling in the middle of each disc. Using your finger, wet the edges of the disc with water, and fold the empanadas in half to seal.

Step 5

Brush with beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes: 12

Note: Ají amarillo is an orange chili that’s widely used throughout the Andean region, especially in Peruvian cuisine. It has a bright, fruity flavour and heat that’s roughly equivalent to a tobacco chili. Many recipes call for it in the form of paste, which can be store-bought or homemade, and it’s often used in sauces. They can also be used raw, ground into a powder, or fried. When dried, they’re called ají mirasol.

Recipe adapted/reprinted from The Latin American Cookbook by Virgilio Martínez. © 2021 Phaidon Press



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