Monday, September 14, 2009


My love of the samosa goes back to my childhood. I'm sure I had them before this, but there was this place in Ballito up some cement stairs, next to the parking garage through which was the laundromat, which always reminded me of the soundtrack to Phantom (my, how one's geography becomes dreamlike twenty years after the fact), which sold the most delicious Indian food including samosas and bunny chow, a curry affair served in a hollowed out half-loaf of government bread, the bread innards left from the hollowing out process on the side. But the samosas. Mmm, the samosas.
I hadn't made samosas myself in five years and I thought it was about time. I had to make something for a potluck and I used this week's apples in a tarte Tatin when I had friends over for dinner on Saturday, so the apple pie I had planned to take was no longer an option. Besides, I always takes sweets and wanted to take something savory for a change. Somehow samosas popped to mind, and I wasn't one to argue. Samosas; yum. But lots of work so allow yourself several hours and be on your best kitchen behavior, getting everything in order before you start. It will save you time, frustration, and burned pans.


adapted from the one, the only Madhur Jaffrey

  • 225 g flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbs. water
  • break
  • 725 g potatoes, boiled in their jackets and allowed to cool
  • 4 Tbs. oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 175 g peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 Tbs. ginger, finely grated
  • 1 fresh, hot green chili, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp.garam masala
  • 1 tsp. ground, roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • oil for deep frying
  • For the dough: Sift together flour and salt. Add 4 Tbs. vegetable oil and rub it in to the flour with your fingers until mixture resemble coarse bread crumbs. Add the 4 Tbs. water a little at a time, adding a little more if necessary. Form the dough into a stiff ball. Knead on a clean, unfloured work surface for about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth. Form dough into a ball, rub with a bit of oil and place it in a plastic bag. Set aside for at least half an hour.
  • While the dough is resting make the filling: Before you even consider turning the fire on under the pan, get your ingredients together. Start by putting the potatoes on to boil. While the potatoes are boiling grind your garam masala. There are endless possibilities with garam masala, but the one Madhur suggests on page 21 of Indian Cooking is this: 1 Tbs. cardamom seeds; one 2-inch cinnamon stick; 1 tsp. black (or regular) cumin seeds; 1 tsp. cloves; 1 tsp. black peppercorns; 1/4 of an average-sized nutmeg. Place all ingredients in an electric coffee grinder (or spice grinder or whathaveyou) and grind for 30-40 seconds or until spices are finely ground. This makes more than you'll need for the recipe, so keep the remainder in an airtight container away from heat and sunlight for the next time or another recipe.
  • As long as you're getting your spices ready, you may as well roast your cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they turn a few shades darker and emit a nice roasted aroma and grind them, cleaning your grinder before you do this. Or, if you're really thinking, doing the cumin seeds before the garam masala, because I don't think it would mind.
  • On a small saucer measure out the salt, ground coriander, garam masala, ground, roasted cumin seeds, and cayenne. Set aside. On another saucer have ready the finely grated ginger, and finely chopped chili and cilantro. Measure out water and set aside. Measure lemon juice into another vessel and set aside.
  • Once the the potatoes are cool, peel and cut them into a 1/4-inch dice and set aside. Have the peas ready to go in their own bowl. Finely chop onion.
  • Heat 4 Tbs. oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute onions until they start to brown at the edges. Add peas, ginger, green chili, cilantro, and water. Cover, reduce heat, and allow to simmer until peas are cooked (not very long if using frozen peas, so be glad you got everything all ready to go). Stir occasionally, adding more water if the pan looks too dry. Add potatoes, spices, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and cook for 3-4 minutes over low heat. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl that will hold filling, and allow to cool.
  • To assemble: Knead dough again and divide into 8 equal (I find it easiest to this by weight) balls. Keep 7 covered while you work with the eighth. Roll ball out into a circle with a 7-inch diameter. Cut it in half with a sharp knife. With one half of the circle form a cone, the rounded edge forming the top of the cone and the straight edge coming together. Use a little water to glue the seam together, making sure there isn't a hole in the bottom. Fill cone with about 2-1/2 Tbs. of potato mixture, starting with a very little to make sure it gets down to the point of the cone. Once the cone is full, seal the top by brushing one side with water and pinching dough together. Repeat with the other half of the circle and remaining seven balls of dough.
  • Put about 2 inches of vegetable (I highly recommend grape seed) oil in a small, deep frying pan and set over medium heat. When the oil is medium-hot, put in as many samosas as will fit in a single layer. Fry slowly, turning frequently, until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels (or newspaper).
They turned out well, I have to admit. And why wouldn't they? Madhur wouldn't lead you astray. The only thing I might do differently in future is to cook them in slightly hotter oil, because they weren't quite as crisp as I might have hoped. They went down awfully well, though, with a bit of Y.'s peach chutney and a nice glass of beer.

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