Whenever I cook something from my childhood I always feel closer to my family even though the family is farther away than I'd like. That's especially true when it comes to saltanas (pronounced sahl-tehn-yas). They are kind of like empanadas. Saltanas always make me think of my Grandmother who we loving called Ta. The name stems from her trying to get my sister & I to say abuelita (meaning little grandmother in Spanish) when we were very little. I could only say TaTa & my sister could only say Ta. So the name stuck & it's the only thing I ever called her. If we wanted Ta to make saltanas we would have to request them over a day in advance so she could start preparing the filling & the dough.
After she passed away 13 years ago there was a definite piece missing that's still missing to this day. A number of years ago my mother started making the saltanas & my dad started making the hot sauce to go alongside them. Taking a bite into them would always make me smile & think of Ta. I decided to start making my own about a year or so ago but since Kelly is vegetarian I put my own spin on them. Normally they are stuffed with beef, olives, raisins & potatoes. I substituted red wine & garlic braised lentils for the beef & I must say they are pretty tasty.
Whenever I make them I feel her presence, guiding me as I add the flour or roll out the dough. She is in the kitchen with me as I fold the pastry over the stuffing & seal the edges.
I know she is proud of me when I pull them out of the oven looking gloriously golden brown. There is just nothing in the world that will ever taste as good as her saltanas. Not foie gras, not truffles, not cassoulet, not pork belly. Nothing. Ever. Never.