Friday, January 30, 2009

Baked Samosas

I love samosas, but I definitely do not love deep-frying, so for those who share a similar fear of the messiness, perils, waste of oil, etc. involved in deep-frying, these baked samosas offer a perfect solution!

The story of how it even occurred to me to make samosas is rather long and winding. You see, I have a sort of New Year's resolution to start cooking from a wider variety of cuisines and particularly to cook more food from various Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Since I absolutely adore Indian food, it seemed like a good place to start, and so I went out and bought myself a lovely Indian cookbook.

Though the recipe I used for these samosas does come from the cookbook (with a few tweaks by me, including the baking vs. deep-frying bit), they were sort of an accident. I had originally been drawn to a recipe for grilled Paneer Tikka, which involved making paneer, stuffing the paneer cubes with mint coriander chutney and then grilling them. Well, I slaved over that recipe which required me to make not one, but two masalas (a masala is a complex spice mixture), the chutney, the marinade, and the paneer, and when it came time to take my paneer out of the refrigerator to stuff it, I discovered, much to my dismay, that instead of being a nice firm block of cheese, my paneer was a soggy, mushy mass that was not likely to go into cubes, support any sort of stuffing, or stay on a skewer.

Sooo, I ended up just sort of mixing everything together (it still tasted good), but, and this is the point of the whole story, I ended up with a lot of leftover mint coriander chutney, and my cookbook happens to recommend serving mint coriander chutney with not just Paneer Tikka, but also with samosas!

So, to use up my chutney, I made these lovely samosas, and they were much easier and much more satisfying to make than the Paneer Tikka, though both dishes tasted wonderful.

If you do not cook a lot of Indian food, you will probably need to buy some special spices for these - since the time I bought my Indian cookbook, my spice collection has at least doubled! I definitely recommend buying the spices though because without them, the food doesn't really taste like Indian food anymore, and it's suddenly just mashed potatoes and peas, which isn't very exciting at all.

For the dough:
About 200 g pastry flour
50 g softened butter (or ghee if you want to be really authentic)
A small spoonful of salt
A small spoonful of ajwain (carom seeds), which my cookbook describes as tasting like a mixture of caraway and thyme. The cookbook suggests using thyme if you can't find any ajwain, but if you have a Whole Foods near you, the Spicely line of spices carries it along with tons of other interesting spices (and yes, I do have an unfortunate tendency to stand in front of the spice selection trying to convince myself that I do not really need to buy vanilla beans and saffron threads, while other shoppers grumblingly push past me)
Cold water

For the filling:
2 smallish yellow potatoes or 1 large one
About half a cup of peas, pre-cooked if frozen
A couple spoonfuls of oil
A small spoonful of salt
A small spoonful of cumin
A small spoonful of ground red pepper
A small spoonful of ground turmeric
A larger spoonful of ground coriander
*My cookbook's recipe also calls for mango powder and green chili, but I can't find mango powder anywhere, and the green chilis I've seen at this time haven't looked particularly appealing

Begin by making the dough. Crumble or cut the butter into the flour, mix in the salt and ajwain, and then mix in the water, a bit at a time, until you have a nice firm dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for half an hour.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. Peel the potatoes, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, salt it, and add the potatoes. Let the potatoes cook until soft enough that you can stick a fork right into the center, about 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.

When the potatoes are done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. If using frozen peas, add the peas to the boiling water and let them cook about 5 minutes. While the peas are cooking, mash the potatoes up until there are no large chunks.

Drain the peas and add them to the potatoes, along with the oil, salt, coriander, turmeric, red pepper, and cumin. Mix everything up and let cool.

After the half hour is up, take the dough out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 360ºF / 180ºC. Divide the dough into two sections, keep one section wrapped up, and roll out the first section. It should be quite thin when rolled out. Cut the dough into circles about the size of a fist. I use a small bowl turned upside down to trace circles in the dough, which I then cut with a knife because the bowl is not sharp enough to cut the dough. Any sort of a jar or cup will work for this.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough circles on the parchment paper. Spoon the filling onto the circles, making sure not to put on too much (it's always tempting to try to stuff the samosas as full as possible, but this often results in them breaking, filling oozing out etc. while they're baking, which is not much fun). Fold one end of the circle over the filling and then the other end, to make a sort of triangular shape. Pinch the dough together all around to make sure the samosa is completely closed up.

Repeat with the second half of the dough, pulling together any scraps left over from circle-cutting to make a few final circles.

When the oven is hot, put the samosas in and let bake about 10 minutes, until crust is a golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve warm with dips, chutneys, yogurts of your choosing!

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