Puff Pastry Samosas

 

Sometimes, I feel guilty about the ungodly amount of time I spend thinking about food. But then I remember my love of dumplings and how many people also share it – the dumpling mania transcends multiple cultural barriers.

Great clip on making dumplings and dumpling parties.

Some examples (not in any particular order and obviously only as complete as my experience has permitted):

  • Vietnamese dumplings: Bánh Bao, Bánh Ít
  • Chinese dumplings: Shumai, Bao, Wonton
  • Japanese dumplings: Gyoza, Daifuku
  • Korean dumpling: Mandu
  • South American dumpling: Empanada
  • Italian dumplings: Tortellini, Ravioli
  • Eastern European dumpling: Pierogi
  • Nepalese dumpling: Momo
  • Indian dumplings: Samosa, Kozhukatta

Now I’m no poet, but if I were at all skilled in this area, there could be an Ode to Dumplings (or multiple).

In my limited foray in the samosa world, I’ve found them to fall most often on the thick crust side of the dumpling line. For me, the best part of the dumpling is the filling, so  puff pastry offers an agreeable solution to my gripes about thick samosa crusts.

Yield: 16 samosas

Ingredients

  • one package of puff pastry, rolled a little and cut into 16 squares
  • some flour for rolling out the dough
  • 3 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets (about 1/4 of a smallish head)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 medium-small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of green peas
  • chopped cilantro
  • a bit of olive oil and a brush

Directions

Steaming

  1. Steam the potatoes, cauliflower and carrots for 10 minutes, or until they are soft.

Filling

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds. Cover this with a lid, and wait for them to pop. Careful not to leave them too long, otherwise they will burn.
  2. When the time between pops increases noticeably, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Only let the spices bloom for about 5-10 seconds.
  3. Immediately add the ginger, garlic, and chili. Stir well.
  4. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add the onion.
  5. Once the onion becomes soft, stir in the curry powder and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add the steamed vegetables and the green peas.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. When the vegetable mixture becomes a bit dry, take this off the heat.
  9. Stir in the cilantro.
  10. Let it cool uncovered for about 10 minutes. Stuffing hot and moist filling in a dumpling is not fun.

Assembly

  1. Heat the oven to 200 C.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Spoon about 1-2 tbsp of filling into each puff pastry square and fold the edges on the diagonal. Seal it shut with the tines of a fork. Poke some air holes at the top of the samosa and place it on a cookie sheet. Resist the urge to overstuff the samosa.
  4. Brush each samosa lightly with olive oil.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown.
  6. Serve with your favorite chutney.

 

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Biryani

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I like it when I find dishes that sum up a country in one go – for India, I think it’s Biryani. Every major Indian spice (ok, except Asafoetida, but don’t be difficult) takes center stage in this glorious cacophony of flavors. Bonus: This is a dish that tastes amazing the day you make it and the subsequent days as well.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Rice

  • 1 1/2 cups of rinsed Basmati rice (could sub Jasmine rice in a pinch)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 a bay leaf

Rice Topping

  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp ghee

Spices

  • 1 tsp shahi jeera (caraway seeds)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into 2-3 pieces)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 green cardamon, pods and seeds separated
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • salt to taste

Vegetables

  • 3 small onions or 2 medium sized onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets (make them small)
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • optional: 1 package of veggie balls (I usually find this in a German or American store in the vegetarian section near the tofu)

Other ingredients

  • 1 cup of yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • a bunch of mint leaves, chopped
  • a bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cashews, chopped and dry roasted

Directions

Rice

  1. Bring the rice and water to a rolling boil in an uncovered pot on the stove.
  2. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low-medium.
  3. When water fully evaporates, take the pot off the heat and let it sit, covered.

Rice Topping

  1. Warm the milk slightly (30 seconds in the microwave).
  2. Soak the saffron in the warmed milk.
  3. At the end, drizzle the Saffron infused milk on finished rice along with the ghee.
  4. Fluff the rice as you mix.

Preparation

  1. In 2 tbsp of oil, caramelize the sliced onions. They should be a bit brown and crispy.
  2. Set the onions aside in a bowl with the cashews (mixed well).
  3. With another 1 tbsp of oil, lightly fry the bay leaf, cloves, separated cardamom, star anise,  cinnamon stick for about 1 minute.
  4. Add shahi jeera and let it blossom – 10 seconds.
  5. Add minced ginger and garlic and cook till they turn slightly brown (1-2 minutes).
  6. Add the remaining vegetables and veggie balls (if using) and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Fry the turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, black pepper with the vegetables for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Pour half the yogurt into the vegetable-spice mixture and stir well.
  9. Cook on low heat until the vegetables are al dente.
  10. Fold the remaining yogurt, mint, and cilantro into the pan.
  11. Cook everything on low heat until the temperature is warm throughout.

Assembly

  1. In a deep dish, evenly spread a layer rice on the bottom.
  2. Add a layer of vegetables and onions/cashew mix over the rice.
  3. Spread another layer of rice on top,  and so on… the top layer should be rice. It’s kind of like making lasagna.
  4. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  5. Cover the dish and bake it for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle some mint and cilantro on top.

Sooji

This popular south Indian dessert is one of my favorites. I like adding extra cashews to it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of upma or sooji rava
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of split cashews
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of butter or ghee
  • a pinch of saffron

Directions

  1. Toast the cashews and raisins, then set them aside
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet, and toast the rava
  3. Once the rava is a golden color, add the water and mix well.
  4. Lower the heat, and let the rava absorb the water. Stir occasionally.
  5. Once the water is fully absorbed, add the sugar. Stir well.
  6. Add the saffron and cardamom
  7. Remove from heat, and top with the cashews and raisins

Mor Kulambu

One of my favorite flavor profiles is creamy, sour, and spicy – this dish hits all those nodes. I guess you could describe this as a classic South Indian yogurt soup, that takes a versatile range of vegetables, and sometimes features some mouth watering vadas (fried doughballs). Every household has a slightly different recipe, and here is just one variation.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

Mor

  • 2 cups of plain yogurt at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp white rice, soaked for 2 hours
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Tempered spices

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida

Ginger paste

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 fresh, sliced Asian chilis (Bird’s eye will do just fine)
  • 1 tbsp toor dal, soaked for 2 hours
  • 1/2 in piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves (10 leaves)

Set this aside

  • Your choice of cooked vegetables (blanched, boiled, etc.) – e.g. zucchini, eggplant, okra, or vada
  • cilantro for garnish
  • some cooked rice

Directions

  1. Churn the Mor mixture well
  2. Add the tempered spices to the Mor mixture, adding some water to thin it (up to 1/2 cup)
  3. Separately blend the ginger paste with a blender or food processor
  4. Mix the Mor and the ginger paste well in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil
  5. Add the vegetables, cook for about 5-6 minutes, until tender
  6. Add salt to taste
  7. Garnish with cilantro
  8. Serve with rice or rotis

South Indian Coconut Green Bean Curry

I can’t get enough of the coconut and turmeric in this dish – there is this wonderful nutty aroma that pairs well with the crunchy green beans. The actual name of this dish is “Achingya Thoren.”

This makes about 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 sprigs of curry leaves (about 1/8 cup of curry leaves)
  • 3/4 cup of shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Madras chili powder (or 1 tsp American chili powder)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp urad dal
  • 2 whole dried hot red chilis
  • 3/4 lb green beans, with the ends cut off, and in 1 inch chunks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  1. Finely chop about half of the curry leaves and mix in a bowl with the coconut, cumin, chili powder, tumeric, salt, and garlic. Add some water to the mixture so that it sticks together.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they stop popping, add the urad dal.
  3. Once the urad dal turns light brown, add the whole chilis and remaining curry leaves.
  4. After about 30 seconds, add the green beans, salt, and 1/4 cup of water.
  5. Stir the beans often and cook them until they are soft, but still a little crunchy, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut mix and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and cook for 5 minutes more.

Chana Masala

Hearty garbanzo beans in a thick and creamy tomato-onion sauce. Add more or less chili to your liking. I used a blender for the sauce, but a food processor will work just as well.

This makes about 4-5 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of garbanzo beans (about 15 oz), drained with the garbanzo water set aside in a bowl
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 large vine tomatoes (or 3-4 roma tomatoes), diced
  • 4-5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp of minced ginger
  • 1/2 of a green chili (I used a serrano pepper)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of chopped cliantro
  • 1/4 tsp Madras chili powder (or 1 tsp of American chili powder)
  • 1-2 tsp of chana masala or garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp of olive oil

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the onions and chili pepper.
  2. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic and ginger.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are mushy.
  4. Put the entire mixture in a blender (heat safe glass) and blend into a fine paste. Add 2 tbsp or more of the garbanzo water to help the mixture blend evenly. If you are using a blender with a plastic or glass body, wait until the mixture cools down before blending.
  5. Return the blended paste to the same pan and stir in the garbanzo beans. Add about 1/2 cup of the garbanzo water, the salt, and the chili powder. Bring the mixture to a boil. You can add more garbanzo water or regular water to thin the sauce if desired.
  6. Add the chana masala or garam masala and cilantro. Remove from the heat.