Last week, before the lefse extravaganza, one of my other San Francisco Bay Area cousins (the Watson cousins have a quorum going – four out of seven of us live in the Bay Area; if you count Monterey, which is a questionable move, the number goes to five out of seven – impressive considering not a single one of us is from here) stopped by after work to make samosas. Why samosas? We really don’t know. I taught her how to make gougères last fall (for her book club meeting when they were to discuss My Life in France – the inspirational tale of Julia Child’s time in France, including embarking on her culinary career at the tender age of 37) and we had a rollicking good time and wanted to do it again.
So we made 110 samosas. I mean, if you’re going to get a pan of oil bubbling and pull out the rolling pins out and cover the kitchen in flour, you might as well have something to show for it at the end of the day, no?
First, the fillings. One potato. One lamb. I make no claims to even the remotest authenticity. We didn’t even fill them right. We gave up and filled them like ravioli or pierogi.
Potato Samosa Filling
This is what most people think of when they think “samosa” (or, I suppose, if they think “samosa”). This filling was soft and fluffy lightly spiced and full of little seeds – cumin, fennel, and mustard – to give it plenty of flavor. If you want to make them more like samosas you get at most Indian restaurants in the States, throw in about a cup of frozen peas towards the end.
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 dried small red chiles
10 fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and add about a tablespoon of salt – you want the water to actually taste salty. Cook until potatoes are tender all the way through, 20 to 30 minutes.
Put potatoes through a ricer or peel and chop – the choice is yours. My cousin “chopped” ours into a mash. It was all very even and precise. She’s a lawyer.
Meanwhile, you can heat another pan over high heat and cook the onions in the oil until they start to brown , adjusting the heat so they don’t burn before they soften. Or, do as we did and wait for that potato pot to be drained and use it to avoid washing a pot. Yes, I’m that lazy about washing dishes.
When the onions are starting to brown, increase heat to high if necessary and add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and mustard seeds. Cover and cook until the mustard seeds stop popping, about 2 minutes.
Add chiles, fenugreek seeds, and turmeric. Stir to combine and then stir in the cooked chopped or mashed potatoes. Cook, stirring, to keep potatoes from sticking too much to the pan (they’ll come up when you add the lemon juice in a moment, so there’s no need to panic), until flavors blend a bit, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste if needed and drizzle whole mixture with lemon juice. Stir to pick up bits of potato on bottom of the pan and transfer to a bowl to cool a bit.
Lamb Samosa Filling
This is essentially kheema, a spiced ground meat dish that goes with rice or bread or potatoes and makes a great stuffing for vegetables that can be stuffed.
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 dried red hot chiles
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large frying pan or pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lamb and cook, stirring as you see fit, until cooked through. Add cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, chiles, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Stir in tomato, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for about 45 minutes. Remove cover, taste and add more salt if you like, and cook off any remaining liquid. Stir in lemon juice and transfer to a bowl to cool.
You will notice that the potato and lamb samosas look quite different on their outsides and well as their ins. We baked the lamb ones – since they had plenty of unctuous tasty fat in them to keep them moist anyway.
So, onto the dough (tired yet?). Use your fingers to work 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1/2 cup water. You may need to add another 1/4 cup to make a workable dough. Knead it in the bowl until it holds together as a ball. Cut into 20 – 30 pieces and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Work with one ball at a time.
On a floured work surface roll each ball into a 4-inch circle. Cut the circle in half. Now you can fold the half-circle in half and pinch the cut sides together to form a cone for a traditional samosa shape and fill the cone about 3/4 full of filling and then crimp the end shut, or just fill it and crimp the edges as we ended up doing because we were so tired and lacked proper Bengali skills. Place filled samosas on a lightly floured baking sheet.
When you’re ready to cook you can either bake them for about 20 minutes in a 375 oven and/or heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy pot or cast iron pan over medium high heat to 350 – 375 degrees. Fry, in batches and without crowding the samosas – until golden on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels or a cooling rack.
We were total heathens who just shoved them in our mouths as we went. I really just do not want to think about how many we ate as we filled and fried. A lot. We officially ate a whole butt-load of samosas. And then some. Luckily, I had made a cilantro mint chutney. It’s chock-full of vitamin A.