An eventful week here at String India, punctuated by the refusal of Windows Live Writer to run without crashing, which explains the lack of posts.
First, I present the results of a local yarn crawl. Local Ravelry KnitPal RedHeadedWoman and I went on a yarn and stitching supply locating expedition to the center of Pune. We crawled in and out of tiny shops that offered the most amazing variety of trims, beads, sequins, pre-stitched blouse yokes, and brocades. No where on earth does bling with the variety and joyful elan of India. Yarn was harder to find, and real wool or silk was unicorn-rare. But there were lots of colors of man-made fibers in various weights.
I came away with some crimson laceweight. It’s about a 2/20 weight and in all probability, either all acrylic or an acrylic/nylon blend. I’ve got roughly 400 grams (about 14 ounces), so I’d estimate that I have in the neighborhood of 4,500 yards. I also got two fistfuls of small metallic beads, one silver tone, and one antique gold. The princely haul below set me back about 600 rupees, roughly $11 US.
Special thanks to RedHeadedWoman for the fun of poking around the market stalls!
Second, I present a happy food triumph of the slightly misshapen variety: Samosas.
Samosas are one of the 10,000 snack foods for which India is famed. It’s a highly adaptable fried or baked turnover, turning up with all sorts of fillings, in all sizes, and at all venues, from the most posh cocktail parties to street food stands. About all I can see that unites them is a vaguely triangular shape and the happiness with which they are greeted.
I tried my hand at one of the most common types – a “truck stop size” samosa, filled with potatoes, peas and onions, spiced with lots of garlic and masala (a spice mix that varies from region to region and cook to cook). We had ours with soup for dinner, but this is the type that’s most commonly available as street food, at roadside rest stops, or other places where food on the go is appreciated.
I started with this recipe, but quickly veered off on my own. Note that the filling can be prepared way ahead and fridged, then brought back to room temperature before stuffing the samosas and frying them.
Therefore, not pretending to offer up anything remotely resembling “authentic,” I present my own version.
LATE BREAKING UPDATE: IF YOU WANT TO MAKE THESE IN A WESTERN KITCHEN, USING WESTERN INGREDIENTS, I HAVE POSTED A REVISED RECIPE HERE.
One American Chick’s Sort-of-Samosas
Makes 16 “truck stop lunch size” filled fried pastries
3/4 cup white all-purpose flour (maida)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
2 Tbsp ghee or butter – MUST BE SOLID, NOT MELTED
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Oil for deep-frying
2 medium size onions, chopped
2 Tbsp oil for sauteeing.
8 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
5 fist-size potatoes, peeled
2 tsp garam masala*, or other spices to your taste
1 Tbsp salt
1. Peel the potatoes, chunk them into two or three pieces and set them to boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and salt them.
2. While the potatoes are cooking you’ll have some time. Mix the two flours, the salt and baking powder together. If lumpy, sift. Work the hard ghee or solid butter into the flour mix with your fingertips or a fork, as if you were making scones or pie crust, until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour looks crumbly and grainy – past the point at which you’d stop if this was pie crust.
3. Add about half of the water to the flour/butter mix and combine. Keep adding water slowly and mixing until the dough can be gathered up and briefly worked into a smooth mass. Do not over-knead or the shells will be hard as rocks. Set the dough aside under a damp cloth or in a plastic box.
4. Take about half of the cooked potatoes and dice them into small chunks, about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch). Precision isn’t important, you just want them to be small but noticeable bits in the stuffing. Rough mash the rest of the potatoes with the back of a fork or large slotted spoon.
5. In a large frying pan, saute the onions in the oil until light golden. Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown. Sprinkle the masala mix onto the onions and saute for another minute or two. Toss in the potato cubes and let them get coated with the oily spicy oniony garlicky mix. Then toss in the mashed potatoes and stir all together. When incorporated, stir in the peas. Taste it and add more salt if needed. Let the stuffing heat on low for another ten minutes for the peas to thaw and cook, and for the flavors to meld. Stir occasionally to scrape up any yummy bits from the bottom back into the filling, and to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom. This fully cooked filling can be made way ahead and fridged until needed, although I suggest taking it out and letting it warm up before stuffing and frying the samosas, to ensure that the center doesn’t remain cold.
6. To assemble – have your filling ready. Have a small rolling-pin ready. Take the rested dough and divide it into 8 equal parts. Put the parts back under the damp cloth towel or back into the plastic box until needed. Take the first lump of dough. Flatten it into a pancake and pat it into some loose flour. Roll it out into a circle, as large and as thin as you can (mine was about 10 inches around, and about an eighth of an inch thick). Take a knife and cut the circle into two halves. Each half will make one samosa.
7. Try to follow this video’s folding logic. Moisten the straight edge of the half circle with water, then pat it into a cone. Hold the cone in one hand and fill it with the other hand, patting the filling in to make sure there are no air holes. Pinch the top of the samosa closed in the center (where the cone’s seam is), then pinch the seam shut left and right of that point. Finally, fold the left and right corners of the newly formed seam together and pinch them, too. The professional samosa chef does this by plopping the thing down on the counter and using the side of his hand to make the second seal, at the same time giving his pastry a nice, flat, triangular bottom. Mine were more free-form, looking sort of like the back end of a fleeing chicken. In spite of the laughably unorthodox shape, mine did stay closed while cooking, which is what counts.
8. As the samosas are done, place them on a plate or rack, making sure that they do not DO NOT touch each other. If you are forming them ahead of time and intend to refrigerate before frying, this is an absolute necessity. You can stack them in a large plastic box, but if you do, make sure each one is separated from the others, and waxed paper or plastic wrap between layers is highly advised.
9. When the samosas are all formed they can be either baked or deep-fried. I have no oven and have NOT tested my variant of the pastry for baking. I fried mine, two at a time in a small, deep saucepan, and drained them on paper towels.
* Masala just means spice mix. Garam masala means hot spice mix. There are as many masala mixes as there are Indian households and cooks. The one I dipped into for the potato filling was a home-made gift from Driver Rupesh’s family. It’s a mix of red chili powder, anise, cloves, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and lord knows what else, pan roasted together and ground into tasty goodness. I have another one that’s a home-made gift from work colleague Bavouk’s family. It’s very different, with a subtle lemony/astringent perfume, and is especially delicious on vegetables and chickpeas.