Garam Masala Tuesdays: Samosas Revisited
I know! I know! I have posted about Samosas before. So why again today? Well, there are quite a few reasons why I return to these delectable fried babies.
For one, a lot of you weren’t following my blog when I first blogged about Samosas. Yes, I am aware a lot of you out there still don’t follow my blog, but I have to admit, without compromising on my modesty, my blog following has increased a bit from when I last posted about samosas. So, its only right to post it again as many of you missed out on it the first time!
Another reason why I post again today, which is probably the main reason- I think this recipe needs to be a part of Garam Masala Tuesdays. Samosas are the most popular tea time snack in India and a favorite when you have guests over and thus deserved to be here at GMT. It would be a crime if I don’t talk about them in my weekly Tuesday posts dedicated solely to Indian food.
Plus, I wanted to see if I could improve on the recipe and even though the previous one was great, these are a notch better- well, the crust has been improved- no more bubbles on the samosa (well, significantly less) and perfectly crispy! (Note: you will see a lot of difference in the quality of pictures taken then and now. Please don’t be too harsh- I was just learning then and continue to do so even now. We have to start somewhere, don’t we!)
Usually served as an appetizer, a samosa is a stuffed Indian pastry that is traditionally fried. It generally consists of a triangular pastry shell with a savory filling, which may include spiced potatoes, onions, peas, coriander and lentils, or ground lamb or chicken. The size and shape of a samosa as well as the consistency of the pastry used can vary considerably, although it is mostly triangular. Samosas are often served with chutney- mint or tamarind or both.
Its unique texture, with the delicacy of pie crust but some of the chewiness of bread crust, is achieved by incorporating solid fat into the flour with a technique called moyan, or rubbing. And unlike pie crust, which is not kneaded (to keep gluten from forming), samosa dough is briefly kneaded to allow the partial formation of gluten. This makes the crust a little stronger to hold in the filling and gives it some elasticity, which keeps it from cracking open when fried.
Now in India, if you want to eat Samosa, you just need a few bucks in your pocket and they are available at every corner “halwai” (the local sweet and snacks shops in India) . But, well, such luxuries are a rare presence in US and a complete non-occurence here in our small town. If you want something Indian in our town, either I have to make it or hope we get invited to another Indian’s house where such treats are made. So, when I had to make something Indian for our International’s Day pot luck dinner, I thought it would be the perfect time to make Samosas.
The first time I made samosa were for my Friday coffee group and they were an instant hit! The best part of an international (aka me) serving his/her traditional food to someone who isnt familiar with his/her local cuisine is that generally the “someone” is not aware of what the actual thing is- how it should look or taste. So the international is free to err a little- of course it still has to taste good but it need not be perfect, and he/she is allowed to be imperfect. Which is a blessing for someone like me, who had no experience of cooking Indian before. So when I first made them and posted about them- they were great in taste but not as perfect as what you get back in India.
Now, the first time you are trying something new, you do not care how perfect the results are – you just hope that it looks remotely like what you are striving for it to be. But when you have tried it once or twice, you start looking at the aesthetics of the whole thing, and that’s what I did. I had perfected the filling and the rolling and shaping of the samosas. Now, I had to make them look as pretty as the ones the Indian halwais hand out in large brown bags.
So I reserached. Googled. Called my mom. Googled again. Made notes. Called my mom again to cross check and get her approval on my findings- I need my mom’s stamp- I don’t care what google says- she is the boss when it comes to cooking for me! Oh, how I miss her, I really do. Its strange as children we hurry to grow up and when we do, that’s when we realize how good we had it as children! Sigh!
- Use melted clarified butter (ghee) instead of vegetable oil, which results in a “khasta” or flaky crust. Much like what shortening or butter if mixed properly does to a pie crust.
- Make sure the temperature of the oil is low when you immerse the samosas and only after a minute increase the flame to medium-low and then to medium and fry till golden brown. This eliminates the occurence of blisters on your samosa. My dad gave me this input- the halwais generally semi- fry all the samosas in low temperature oil and remove them. They immerse the semi fried samosas again in oil on a higher heat and fully fry the samosas till golden brown. Of course, you get more oil this way- but you get a beautifully flaky and crisp crust.
- Add a few carom seeds to the dough for extra flavor. You could make the dough without the carom seeds too. I have done so in the past and the results have been equally good.
- Use cold water (I do not know the temperature of the water that I used earlier but this time I made sure it was ice cold) Well there are conflicting views on this- some places I saw people swear by cold water and other sites, eg. Manjula’s– she adds warm water to samosa dough though she talks about trying the cold water. I have read about using vodka as well- again have seen the same for pie crusts- but did not try it out this time. I think the crust that I made was perfect and for me cold water worked perfectly.
- I also rolled the dough ball in some rice flour before rolling it out into a circle. You could and actually should add it to the flour while kneading, and well, technically so should have I, but I forgot. I had to goof up some way or the other, don’t I?! The rice flour makes the samosa crust crispier.
- I also made changes to the filling by adding onions this time. I also added some Indian cottage cheese, to make them a little different. You can add minced meat – chicken or lamb- which make great fillings too.
Although a little time consuming, Samosas are not too difficult to make. You could make the filling ahead of time and the recipe does yield a lot. You could freeze the leftover samosa and they reheat very well in the oven. Just bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Check the “make ahead” section after the recipe.
GARAM MASALA TUESDAYS : SAMOSAS REVISITED
makes about 48 smaller sized Samosas
FOR THE DOUGH
- 6 tbsp melted ghee
- 3 cups flour
- 1-2 tbsp rice flour
- 120 ml cold water
- salt to taste
- 1-2 tbsp ajwain (carom seeds), optional
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, carom seeds, salt.
- Melt the ghee in a small saucepan. Add it to the flour mix.
- Mix together with fingers – careful not to burn your fingers in the ghee (Like me, you could use a pastry blender or fork to do the mixing).
- Mix well, rubbing very gently, to resemble coarse bread crumbs.
- Add cold water (in parts) and make a stiff dough and not soft – to facilitate easy kneading. (You might need to increase or decrease the amount of water used since the measurement of the flour is given in cups and your way of measuring might differ from mine, hence the requirement of water will vary.)
- Knead it for a while and rest it for an hour under a cloth.
FOR THE FILLING
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 5 russet potatoes
- 200 gms paneer or Indian cottage cheese
- 1 tsp aamchoor (raw mango powder), optional
- juice of half a lime
- 1 2/3 cups green peas
- 1 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 tbsp ginger
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 10 green chillies (I deseeded mine)
- 1/3 cup coriander/cilantro
- 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
- Peel, wash cut potatoes into 1/4th inch cubes and immerse in water.
- Cut the paneer also in 1/4 inch cubes.
- Boil peas until cooked. Drain.
- Scrape, wash and finely chop ginger.
- Deseed green chillies and chop finely. (I generally slit the chillies in half and deseed and rinse them to be doubly sure that there are no seeds left)
- Wash and finely chop coriander.
- Heat ghee/oil in a kadhai. Add cumin seeds once the oil is hot and let them sizzle. Add ginger and sauté for a minute.
- Add the onions and cook till translucent.
- Add potatoes, red chilli powder and salt.
- Sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and cover and cook, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender, not mashed.
- Add boiled peas and green chillies until liquid is totally evaporated and mixture is dry. Add the Indian cottage cheese. Remove from fire.
- Now sprinkle the aamchoor and then coriander. Add the lime juice. Cool the filling completely before using for stuffing.
SHAPING, STUFFING AND FRYING
Dip your forefinger in water and put water on the edges of the semi circle.
Pinch the top of the cone, so that there is no filling oozing out.
Pinch together the bottom of the cone together.
Heat oil on low heat. Then drop in the samosas- 3-4 at a time. Fry for a minute and then slowly increase the heat to medium and let cook till golden brown. While removing one batch, lower the heat again. Wait about a minute and add a fresh batch of samosas on low heat. (Remember, if the oil is too hot you will get bubbles on your samosas. Not that it does anything to the taste (in my opinion it shudnt) but they don’t look perfect. In case bubbles are hsowing up in your samosas reduce heat of the oil.)
Points to keep in mind to get the perfect samosas:
- Samosa dough should always be stiff.
- Samosa pastry should be evenly rolled not too thick and not too thin.
- The stuffing and folding is an important aspect, as the frying should not let any oil seep into the product through cracks/openings.
- Always fry samosas in slow to medium warm oil.
- Always use hot melted vegetable fat just under the smoking point in the dough.
- Make the dough and seal it tightly in plastic wrap. Can be kept in the refrigerator for five days or freezer for longer. Let come to room temperature before using.
- The filling could be made a day ahead as well. Keep in the refrigerator and let come to room temperature before using.
- You could also shape and fill the samosas and put them in the refrigerator or freezer (if not eating in a day) and freshly fry them when you want to serve them.
- You can reheat fried samosa either in the oven at 350 F for 10 minutes or re-fry in hot oil for 1-1 1/2 minutes.
- Cooked samosas wrapped loosely in foil or plastic, they’ll last for two days. You can also freeze them for up to six months by wrapping them in foil and then sealing them in plastic. Thaw frozen samosas in the fridge before reheating them.
Note: If you really do not have any time on your hand, make the filling and use frozen short crust pastry for the dough sheets. Separate the sheets by using a knife while its frozen and leave it for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into four squares and put the filling. Use water to seal the edges. You could also use uncooked tortillas that are available in some Costco stores called Tortilla Land Uncooked Tortillas. They are along the frozen meat section. These can be used as Samosas wrappers by cutting them half and stuffing them with the above filling. Slightly smear water towards the ends and close it to make a samosa shape and then press the edges very well so that the stuffing doesn’t come out while its getting fried. This is a quick and easy way to make samosas. I can not guarantee the results as I have not tried it myself, but if you do try, let me know!
This recipe is linked to