About a month ago, I came across a post of a couple who was currently walking the Camino de Santiago across the northernmost part of Spain. It piqued a long lost excitement. The “Way of Saint James,” as it is translated into, is a pilgrimage usually taken on foot. It roughly traverses 500 miles if trekked by the most popular route, the Camino Frances, from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Walking on average 14-16 miles per day, this voyage should take you about 30 to 35 days.
That is a heck of a long walk. Yet it is something that has appealed to me nonetheless since I completed the book “The Pilgrimage” by Paulo Coehlo. Forget the fact that I don’t even like to cross the street in the rain, there is still something enticing about pushing yourself beyond what you ever thought yourself capable of and that being grounded of course in an old Catholic tradition. Repent for your life’s sins while getting fit? I know that probably isn’t the point but this is what came to mind as a double bonus.
Exciting as it sounded, it brought back an aching memory. It was some years ago I picked up that book, and it was while traversing down one of the more challenging and narrow paths in my life. I was seeking something and that something kept coming into my grasp and then falling short. In all honesty I had no idea what that something was at the time, and there were a million missteps, broken bones and bruises along the way. It is only now that I can look back and see what it was that I truly needed to find.
Though I don’t feel it is quite the opportune time to take on the actual physical camino, God has strange ways giving you a bit of a push down the metaphorical path you need to be on. So as I day dream about someday taking that old Spanish road, I shall continue on beating the same path.
One of the most appealing parts to me of the Camino, as a contrast to just taking a long hike, is the idea of walking the path alone, but yet it is not taken completely alone. Most seasons you find yourself trekking with many persons. In addition to your fellow peregrino, the people of Spain are known to reach out to those who make the journey, offering kindness, a bed and often food. It just makes it all the more special there are people who care about you making it and support their fellow pilgrims along the way.
So it was rather coincidental that while researching the Camino, the kind people at Try the World contacted me and offered me a free box to try out and the opportunity to develop a recipe for their blog. Coincidence? I think not.
Try the World is a subscription service that curates and sends a bi-monthly box of foods and ingredients centered around a selected country. I have been excited to try this company for awhile as I often get the travel bug but don’t have the funds to commit to a full on vacation. This is great for people like this!
The ingredients were really nice. I enjoyed the sweet treats with some cafe con leche (in the Spanish tradition) while playing a few of their song recommendations included on the traditional Spanish music playlist. The turron was certainly a favorite as a softer version is eaten every holiday by our Italian family. Orange is also my favorite turron flavor. Nostalgia got me here!
The savory ingredients I decided to put to good use in a recipe that has its roots along the pilgrim’s journey, originating in the region of Galicia. This is the empanada.
The empanada, most say, had its beginnings here in Spain. The original idea was for a large pie to be sliced, wrapped up, tucked away and eaten while on the road or working on the farm as a quick and filling lunch. Thus, it does not look like its partner, the hand pie empanada more common in the Caribbean and South America. Even more uniquely, this pie is made with tuna, or closer to the interior, pork.
Try the World was kind enough to include a nice Spanish tuna so I picked up a few more (after eating a bit straight up) and went for it. The filling is my creation and its authenticity validated by at least one Spanish expat but lets be real; there are as many versions of this recipe as there are families in Spain.
I did get crazy on the crust and instead of using the oil from the filling in an olive oil crust I went to the easiest, flakiest empanada crust I know of, a cream cheese crust. This was adapted from Three Guys from Miami and introduced to me by a culinary friend. It is great if you want to do this in a delicious way without the usual pie crust stress.
If you want a really tasty shortcut, just cool down the filling for an easy tuna salad and serve as a tapa on crusty bread.
I hope you enjoy this authentic yet inspired dish that you can take on the road wherever your camino will take you. Buon Camino, Peregrino!
- 8 oz of cream cheese
- 8 Tbsp of unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1/2 tsp of sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg, whisked with a little water
- 1/8 cup of Oleum Hispania or any extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
- 1 large or two small onions, chopped
- 1 cup of chopped sweet red pepper
- 12 oz of Espinaler white tuna or a good tuna in oil
- 1 cup of El Navarrico Salsa Tumaca con ajo or crushed tomatoes(previously cooked with a tsp of olive oil and a clove of chopped garlic)
- 1 crushed anchovy
- 15 large green olives stuffed with pimiento, roughly chopped
- 3/4 tsp of El Avion paprika, or any mild paprika
- pinch of saffron, already soaked in a TBSP of hot water
- A few cranks of black pepper
- sea salt to taste
- Cream butter and cream cheese in a mixer until incorporated well.
- Sift flour. Add salt, sugar and baking powder. Stir to combine.
- Add flour to butter and cream cheese mixture.
- Using a light touch, combine until flour mixture is well incorporated and everything comes together in one nice ball. Wrap in plastic wrap or a towel, making sure to keep airtight and let rest for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
- Heat the oil in a saute pan. When hot, add onions and cook a few minutes until they begin to soften.
- Add peppers and continue to saute until soft.
- Stir in the tuna, anchovy, tomatoes, olives, paprika and saffron. Continue to saute until combined, about 3 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Flour your work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll one piece out into a large circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Keep it as close to 1/8th as possible. Too thick a crust will come out doughy.You will have a bit extra to make some dessert empanadas if you wish but better safe than sorry. Lay the dough over a nine inch pie pan. Press gently into sides and trim off the extra with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
- Spread filling evenly in pie pan, using a slotted spoon to remove extra water.
- Roll out the second piece, flouring as needed and lay over the pie pan.
- Trim edges to fit and roll the bottom over the top of the pie, tucking and closing seams as you go.
- Lightly brush the top with egg. Slice the center with an x to vent the steam.
- Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes or until top is lightly browned.
- Wait until the pie is cool to slice into pieces. Wrap extras in parchment paper. Slices are best served at room temperature.