Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cocktail Samosas with a twist

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I had a plan to visit Old Delhi this Saturday only to sample the food. The huge downpour on Thursday prompted me to postpone that trip by a week and not wanting to sit at home, I made a short trip to Central Market, Lajpat Nagar. After stuffing myself with chaat, samosas, bread pakoras and a lot more, I decided to do some of my own on Sunday. It was going to be samosas, but with a different filling.
Samosas are a very popular snack in India. I, for one have loved samosas since my childhood and some of my close friends know of this craving. It was fairly routine in my grandfather's house to have samosas and pakoras for evening tea every other day. I can't wait for winters to arrive so that me and my co-workers can walk across the office on foggy Delhi mornings to the local kiosk (more of a make shift shed) where the streetside vendor is busy frying fresh samosas and bread pakoras. You can find a crowd of people from various offices who have made this morning walk to bond over samosas, hot chai (tea) and discuss cricket (if not the office).
Simply put, Samosas are deep fried/baked stuffed pastry, mostly triangular in size, but other variations in shape do exist.
It's origins are widely debated and it is known by various names in various regions of India, Asia and Africa where it is widely eaten. Though some say say that it originated in Central Asia and was introduced to India in the 13th & 14th century by traders from Central Asia, renowned culinary historian K. T. Achaya differs (or maybe I misconstrued what he meant) while writing about Samosa in his 'A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food'. He quotes Amir Khusrao (1300 AD) describing the foods of the Muslim Aristocracy in India consisting of the 'samosa', which is prepared from meat, ghee, etc.Also, Ibn Batuta (14th Century traveler and explorer in the court of the Tughlaq dynasty in Delhi) during the same century describes the samosa ( which he calls a samusak), as a snack cooked with minced meat cooked with dry fruits such as almonds, pistachios alongwith onions and spices etc.(Per him it was served before the third course, the Pulao). Also, quoted is the Ain-i Akbari, which lists the samosa as the qutab (and states that the people of Hind call it sanbusa). Based on these historical inputs Achaya believes that the samosas were something that these travelers did not bring from their parent lands but indigenous to India. Apart from the historical works quoted by Achaya, the samosa is also listed by an Iranian historian Abolfazl Beyhaqi(10th Century) in the works called Tarikh-E-Beyhaghi. Irrespective of where it originated, the samosa has remained a popular snack. In North India,it consists of a filling of mashed potatoes and peas. As you travel to Pakistan you can find the version with meat filling. The samosa is also known as the Singhara in West Bengal (Eastern State of India) and in Hyderabad, India you can find a square shaped version called the Lukhmi.
For Samosa addicts, here is a great site which you have to see (unless you are faking it). It is called the Samosa Connection and has the history, origins, types and avatars listed. They even have a mail ID for you to contact them and submit your comments and suggestions. Now that is cool.

Thyme Cocktail Samosas with Cottage Cheese
(16 Samosas)

For the Samosas
Flour - 200 gm
Oil - 40 ml.  Replace with Ghee below
Ghee - 50 gm (I used Oil, but had a good suggestion from Sidharth Bakshi to replace oil with ghee. Helps to remove the blisters from the final product).
Salt - 1/2 tsp.
Thyme - 1 tsp.
Flour - To Dust
Oil - To Deep Fry
Water - 1 Cup ( You may not require more than 4-5 tblsp.)

For the Filling
Paneer (Cottage Cheese), grated - 200 gm
Corn Kernels, blanched - 200 gm
Olives, sliced or chopped - 7
Cheddar /Processed Cheese, cut into 0.5 cm cubes - 40 gms
Shallots, finely chopped - 1/2 Cup
Garlic, finely chopped - 6 cloves
Black Pepper, freshly ground - 1 Tsp.
Mixed Herbs - 1 Tsp
Salt - To Taste
Olive Oil - 1 Tblsp

Dough for the Samosas:
1. Sift the flour and salt together. Add in the thyme.
2. Make a well in the centre and pour oil into it.
3. Start mixing the flour mixture with the oil gradually.
4. Once the oil is fully mixed, add in the water and knead to form a semi-hard dough.
5. Cover with a moist cloth and rest for a minimum of 15 minutes.

The Filling:
1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan.
2. Add in the chopped shallots. Cook them till they turn translucent. Add in the chopped garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
3. Add in the paneer, mix well and cook for 3 minutes.
4. Add in the corn kernels. Mix well and cook for 3 more minutes.
5. Add in the herbs, seasoning and olives. Mix well and cook for an additional minute.
6. Switch off the flame and add in the cheese cubes and stir the mixture.

Making the Samosa:
1. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and make a ball.
2. Divide the mixture into 16 equal portions. (each ball of dough will yield 2 samosas, hence twice the filling to the balls).
3. Place a ball on a lightly floured surface. Keep a bowl of water nearby (You will use it later).
4. Flatten it with a rolling pin and roll it into a round shape (3" in diameter).
5. Cut the circle into half.
6. Take one half of the circle (semi-circle) and place it in your palm. Position the straight edge to align along the forefinger.
7. Dip the forefinger of your other hand in water and use the wet forefinger to line the straight edge.
8. Fold the semi circle into a cone.
9. Stuff the filling into the cone (Do not fill to the brim - leave a portion vacant on top).
10. Line the edges of the open side with a wet forefinger.
11. Seal the open portion together by pressing firmly.
12. Arrange on a lightly floured tray.
13. Repeat the procedure till all samosas are prepared.
14. Heat oil in a wok.
15. Deep fry the samosas on medium heat till they are golden brown.
16. Drain the excess oil on absorbent paper.
17. Serve hot with chutney.

Note: Traditionally Samosas are served with mint chutney. Since these were different in their filling, I made an orange chutney to accompany the samosas.


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