My favourite samosa memory is from my hometown, even though I've had über delicious ones when I've been away at university as well. My cousin Brad introduced me to this little chaat place just under a block of apartments close to home, called Vrindavan. They made some really good chaats and samosas. One of my favourite chaats from there was a 'ragda samosa' where there made and fried fresh samosas, which were then broken up and smothered in a curried pigeon pea or chickpea sauce called a ragda and sprinkled over with chopped onion, a sweet/ sour tamarind chutney, cilantro and spicy, fried chickpea noodles called sev. The whole experience is, and has always been, mindblowing to me, with all the textures and tasted melding together into an explosion of flavours. Every time I visit back home, this is one of my first foodie stops.
Addie wanted to try making traditional North Indian samosas, while I just wanted to make a version that tasted authentic. I love both traditional and fusion samosas, though I will admit that I do turn up my nose at ones that are called samosas but made with filo pastry. Samosas are NOT made with filo pastry, those are North African briouats, and are a completely different beast to samosas.
As Addie and I were hatching our samosa plans, Marlow Moo and Diane, aka Argenplath (whose pretty hands you need to admire in the title shot for this post) were listening in. So of course, we had to invite them along as well. Talk about racking up the pressure, eh? I looked up a few recipes in my cookbooks, and we decided that we would modify the one from my beloved The Mangalore Ladies' Club Cookbook.
But we persevered. The dough was probably the trickiest part. Samosa dough is almost like a shortcrust pastry, only deep fried. A good crust should be flaky, crispy and with no doughiness to it. To make it, I should have technically got an Indian version of refined flour called maida, but I didn't have time. So Addie and I decided to use plain all purpose flour as our first attempt at dough. Addie used the shortcrust pastry method to make the dough, which is essentially rubbing the fat (in our case, the oil) into the flour and working in the water to make the dough. For this first batch, we used warm water, and worked the dough for a few minutes until it was smooth and silky. We rested the dough, and then rolled it out to make the samosa crusts.
We made a few mistakes with this dough. First off, we didn't use any baking powder or raising agent, so the dough was a tad heavy. Then we realised that we didn't roll out the dough thin enough, so the first batch of samosas were doughier than we would have liked.
So we decided to make a second batch. The second batch started off on a weird note, as I realised that I had actually run out of all-purpose flour. Oops! The only flour I had in my cupboard was fine ground Italian 00 flour, so we used that instead. It was an inspired move. The 00 flour mimicked maida more than the all-purpose did, and this time we added baking powder which made the dough lighter. We also rolled out the dough very thin, until it was almost translucent, and when we fried up our second batch, the difference was instantaneous. The samosa was flakier, crisper and lighter and had absorbed less oil. There was no doughiness that we could detect, and it was pretty close to the roadside and restaurant samosas that Addie and I enjoyed in India (ahem, not our mums' ones perhaps?)
I had a bit of the samosa dough left over, so I chucked it into the fridge to make more samosas the next day. I actually felt that the dough worked a lot better when I took it out the next day and used it. The samosas came out a little crisper, and the dough was also easier to work with. So it may be worth making the dough and the filling a day in advance before assembling and frying up the samosas.
The filling itself was a recipe from my mum, that Addie and I adapted to our taste. Its a classic potato and peas filling, that is ubiquitous all over India and pretty straightforward. It can be made well in advance, and actually benefits from this, as the spices get a chance to be absorbed into the potatoes and peas. Obviously, you can go pretty fusion with the fillings as well, and restaurants here sell a variety of fillings, including local restaurant Guru's famous butter chicken filling. So do feel free to ignore me and my incessant ranting about fusion samosas and go with the filling you like the best.
Both Addie and I were pretty happy with this recipe, and its definitely one we can see ourselves making in the future.
Marlow Moo has done an excellent recap of our samosa making experience over at Mr Moo's Adventures, and there are also step by step pictures over here, so do take a moment to stop by and take a look. And as usual, if you need to, just hop on here or over to The Tiffin Box's Facebook Page and ask any questions that you'd like to. I am an ongoing service, after all :)
Makes about 12 samosas
2 cups Italian '00' flour *see notes
1 teaspoon whole ajwain (bishop's weed, or carom seeds)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unscented oil (vegetable/ canola/ sunflower/ grapeseed)
Warm water as required
Sift the flour, ajwain seeds, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre.
Rub the oil into the flour, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the warm water, a little at a time and knead into the flour adding more water as required to make a soft, pliable dough. Knead dough for 4 - 5 minutes, until smooth.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap or cling film and leave to rest for at least half hour, or overnight in the fridge.
Bring back the dough to room temperature before making samosa shells.
2 - 3 tablespoons unscented oil (vegetable, canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, diced finely
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped finely
1 - 2 green birds eye chillies, chopped finely
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 - 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 large potatoes, chopped
1 - 2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
Juice of half a lemon
Salt to taste
Large handful cilantro, chopped
Heat the oil in a saute pan, then add the cumin seeds. When seeds sizzle, add the onion, and fry for 5 - 7 minutes, until the onion is soft but not coloured.
Add the ginger, chillies, turmeric, ground cumin, amchur and garam masala. Fry together for a couple minutes, then add the potatoes.
Saute the potatoes in the onion-spice mixture for about 5 - 7 minutes, until they begin to fray around the edges. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, then simmer for about 15 - 25 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender.
Add the peas, and cook for a few minutes. Season to taste with the salt and lemon juice.
Take off the heat, and mash coarsley. Stir in the cilantro. Let the filling cool completely before stuffing into samosas.
Assembling the samosas:
Water to seal edges of samosas
Enough oil for deep frying, I use canola or sunflower oil.
Carefully cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Take one piece (keep the rest covered with plastic wrap) and gently shape it into a ball.
Dust your counter with a little flour, then using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a very thin, translucent oval shape.
Cut the oval in half width ways. Make a cone shape, using the straight cut side of the oval, pinching the edges together with a little water to help seal the sides.
Take a lemon sized ball of potato stuffing, and place into the cone. Gently fold over the rounded side of the cone, using it almost like a flap, and making it into a triangle. Seal all edges well, using a little water, then using the tines of a fork, press a decorative pattern into the edge. Pinch the top and side edges of the triangle into a 'mohawk'.
Assemble about 4 samosas at a time.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep pot to 350 F. I like using a deep frying thermometer to give me accurate and consistent results.
Gently lower in the samosas, one at a time. Deep fry them for 4 - 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oil, carefully, using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with various chutneys.
Addie and I found that the best results for the samosa dough came from using the finer ground Italian 00 wheat flour that can be found in any Italian grocery or large supermarkets. You can also use Indian maida flour, which is also a refined flour or a regular all-purpose white wheat flour.