Browsing Category: recipes

Samosa Making Tutorial

Being Pakistani, I associate samosas with holidays, celebrations and happy moments. When I was young, samosas were staples at weddings, iftaars (parties where you break your fast in Ramadan) and at the mosque after Eid prayer. Until I was in my teens, I only knew one kind of samosa and that was what I thought was the “traditional” samosa. It was a pastry filled with potatoes, peas and spices and then deep fried so it had a crispy outer shell.

In my travels, I have seen samosas in every variation. Small ones, big ones. Vegetarian ones, meat ones. Fried ones, baked ones.Many countries around the world have their own samosa and in many cultures it holds the same positive associations it holds for me, a food that goes hand in hand with happy memories.

Since we don’t have a car in DC and since I love samosas more than just about anything, I decided that I would make them at home. I remembered making them with my mom when I was quite young so I figured I was half way there. My mom used to use those freezer pastry sheets and I planned to do the same, until I saw the nutrition information on a packet Feraz brought home for me. At about 15 grams of fat, 225 calories and a very low nutritional grade, the ten dollar a pop pastry sheets were promptly returned. I didn’t feel comfortable making something quite that bad as a snack for us or to serve to our guests.
I looked up some recipes for the pastry and it was easy enough to make myself. All I needed was:
  • 2 cups flour (you can use wheat or any flour you prefer but in this case I used unbleached  all-purpose flour)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter. (I like to melt the butter on the stove and then let it cool for a few minutes before using. It seems to get a better result than just melting in the microwave. I also found that using vegtable oil as a substitute did not work.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons water
Mix the flour and salt and making a well in the middle, pour the butter in. Add the water little by little, as needed. At first the dough will feel too dry and crumbly but as you continue to knead it, it will get softer and smoother. If you are having major problems getting the consistency you want, I have found that adding additional melted butter helps.
After you have prepared the pastry dough, cover it and set it aside so you can make the filling. You have lots and lots of room to be creative with the filling. You can modify it so the flavors you love will really stand out. If you want to start with a basic filling though, this is loosly the recipe I used.
  • 4 large potatoes (which I boiled the first time, but microwaved in the future for a much faster process. Just make two cuts in the potato and put it in the microwave for 6-8 minutes per potato depending on your power)
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 3/4 spoon of salt (I use the regular sized spoon for these measurements, so something like a plastic spoon would be a good reference point. Sorry!)
  • 1 1/2 spoon of red chili powder
  • 1 1/2 spoon of cumin
  • 1/2 a spoon of whole corriander (smash these between your palms to help release the flavor and aroma but to still keep the texture they provide.)
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic
  • a small bunch of cilantro, very finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped
 After you have peeled your microwaved or boiled potatos, dice the potatos up and mix them with all the ingredients above on medium heat for a few minutes, until everything is mixed nicely. It doesn’t have to look pretty but I do recommend aiming to keep the potato pieces as uniform in size, as possible which I didn’t do this first time around.

Now, its time to move back to your pastry. Take a handful of the dough and roll in your hands untl you have a nice little dough ball. Press the ball down onto the surface you are working on and then with a rolling pin flatten in out until you have a pita sized piece of dough. This does not have to be pretty or precise! Cut the dough into two pieces with a butter knife. Again precision is not necessary here. It will not matter at all once you make the samosa. In the picture below you can see my pastry looks nothing like a cicrle and I cut it in half wherever I felt like it. Then, take 1-2 tablesppons of your filling and place it on the middle of the pastry. I made the mistake of overstuffing my pastry the first time I made it but a little bit actually goes a long way and you want to make sure you will be able to close the pastry up.

To finish the samosa, you want to make a triangle shape. You will want to fold the pastry so what was the straight cut is folded upwards. So you can take the two corners above (in the lower half pastry) and fold them towards you for the result below. Take your thumb and press the excess dough together to seal the samosa. I have heard that brushing an egg onto the dough helps to seal the dough but I didn’t notice any real difference when I did this and when I didn’t. Just try to smooth everything down as much as you can so it beomes one solid shell.
For a traditional samosa, simply deep fry these in a pan of oil. (We use olive oil becuase it makes us feel slightly better about the indulgence.) These are best served with a nice mint chutney (I will post a recipe for that soon).

Since the prep work for the dough and filling can take a little bit of time, I just like to make a whole bunch and freeze them so I can whip them up quickly for any surprise guests we might get. It might be good to start with smaller batches until you tweak the recipe to get it just the way you want though! I made beef samosas using this same basic recipe but substitute beef for potatoes and cook for a bit longer so the beef is well done. I also made the samosas about half the size for the beef ones and reduced the filling accordingly.

I hope you have fun trying out this recipe as the weather starts to get colder. I would love to hear any tricks or tips you have for making samosas.

Carrot Cake

Do you remember the smell of cookies baking on weekends when you were a kid? Do you remember how excited you would get at the thought of your mom baking your favorite cake for your birthday? Or how comforting it was to have someone make you a pie when it felt like the whole world sucked?

I don’t.

Although my mother is good at many things, she is no baker and growing up I saw more fudge stripe cookies than any sort of home baked goods. I started cooking at a young age but never really baked. When I was in law school, I tried my hands at baking cookies a few times to disastrous results. I was sure that my mom had killed any baking gene there might have been in our family and resigned myself to raising my children on Keebler products.

But everyday when I check my facebook I see photo after photo of people’s success and I think if they can make a cake, why can’t I?

Although I fully plan to be a tiger mother I realize that with thousands of how to videos available on the internet, there is no reason I can’t become a master baker by the time my children have to start taking birthday cupcakes to class and effectively prevent my future children from blogging about how I never baked them a cake.

Last week I made these apple cupcakes/muffins which turned out ok (By ok I mean I only ate six of them on Sunday) but this week I wanted a bigger challenge and I wanted to correct some of the mistakes I made in last weeks baking adventure. I decided on carrot cake because it is my fave and also because we had a bag of organic carrots that had been sitting in the fridge for about three weeks. (They hadn’t gone bad. I swear.)

I used the recipe in America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. It is easy to follow and called for lots of gentleness. Gently mix the flour and spices, gently fold in the carrots, gently fluff the frosting. By the end, I thought my cake needed a therapist more than an oven.

Although the recipe didn’t call for nuts, I remembered that every mile high carrot cake I had ever eaten included nuts and I remembered that they had been on the side of the cake so I decide to add that in. To figure out how to do it, I googled “how to stick nuts on the side of a cake.” That led me to this website and although the name baking911 really spoke to me, all the pink, red and schizophrenic fonts was too much for me and I quickly hit the back button. The next website had too many words but as I scrolled down I saw this picture which was all I needed. Falling the smack the thing you want on the side of your cake method, I was able to get the result I wanted.

For the final making my cake look like a real cake touch I used my recently purchased pastry bag to make a squiggly thing around my cake. To learn how to do this, I googled “how to make a squiggly thing around a cake.” I ran into a website that was called “Directions for Decorating a Tinkerbell Birthday Cake.” I decided to wing it. Making the squiggly thing was actually really easy and I did it in about 12 seconds. I think if I had taken 30 seconds, it would have looked better but all I could think of was how badly I wanted to eat my cake so I didn’t spend enough time smoothing the frosting, nicely putting on the nuts or making an even squiggly line. That did not take away from how awesome the cake tasted so I win(ning).

The best thing about making the cake at home was that I was able to use all organic ingredients and was able to use the “light” recipe which cut out half the fat and calories. It still tasted amazing as is evidenced by how much we have already eaten.

The moral of this post? With google, all things are possible.