“Empadas” (pies) are a common snack in cafes all over Portugal and part of portuguese culinary tradition for centuries (royal chef Domingos Rodrigues dedicates 41 recipes to empadas in his “Arte de Cozinha” from 1680, the first Portuguese cookbook). Today, you are mostly likely to find them filled with chicken, roast piglet or perhaps salted cod. This is a recipe that takes advantage of the dense taste of pheasant to provide an absolutely moorish filing for this exquisite finger food. Shortcrust pastry is ideal for this as it is light enough to let the filling shine but you could experiment with puff pastry as well. Perfect as a snack, light lunch or for a picnic. Can be served hot or cold but much, much better hot out of the oven…
Makes 12 small empadas
For the filling
1 cup of cider
2 shallots (finely chopped)
1 cup of smoked bacon cubes
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp allspice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
12 pitted black olives
Salt and pepper
For the shortcrust pastry
Use your favourite shortcrust recipe but here’s one based on Escoffier’s bible “Le Guide Culinaire”!
250 gr sifted flour
5 g salt
1 dl water
1 egg yolk
Method for the filling
1. Debone the pheasant so that you end up with meat from breast and thighs (no skin).
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pan and add the finely chopped shallots.
3. Cook the shallots for a couple of minutes at medium heat and then add the bacon. Fry until most of the bacon fat is rendered (take care not to burn the shallots).
4. Add the pheasant (chopped into small cubes), fry and stir for a couple of minutes then add the flour and keep stirring.
5. Add cider, let alcohol evaporate then add tomato paste and keep stirring. You should achieve a smooth slightly thickened sauce enveloping the pieces of pheasant and bacon. Set aside.
Method for the pastry
1. Make a well in the flour and place the salt, butter and water in the centre.
2. Mix until (with fingertips) until it forms a paste.
3. Mix for a moment then knead it twice, form into a ball and keep in the fridge wrapped in cling film.
(For those of you with a Thermomix, the basic shortcrust pastry recipe in the TM book is easy to make and works perfectly for these pies though you might need a double recipe)
1. Generously butter small pie moulds (muffin moulds).
2. Roll pastry to about 3 mm thickness on a floured surface and cut to fit the base and sides of your mould.
3. Cut circles with a pastry cutter or glass/cup to cover the tops.
4. Place pastry on the moulds, fill up to 3/4 with the pheasant, add a pitted olive and cover with a circle of pastry, wetting the edge with water beforehand for sealing.
5. Once pies are assembled brush top with an egg wash (egg yolk mixed with a tso of water) and put in a 180C oven for about 20 minutes.