September 6, 2017
About six months ago, I bought a tyffyn lunch box by Chennai, India-based company, Vaya Life (not an advertisement), in the hopes that I could use my sleek, vacuum-insulated new toy to pack a warm lunch at my day job or make life easier for myself when packing a picnic for that special someone. I haven’t had a chance to introduce my tyffyn to the great outdoors yet, but it kind of serves as the perfect backdrop for this week’s blog post.
For those who aren’t familiar with the tyffyn (I truthfully wasn’t, aside from a passing reference to it in the film, “The Lunchbox,” which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it yet), it’s similar in concept to a bento box, featuring three stacking compartments that will keep your food warm or cold for up to six hours. Which is super convenient, especially if you don’t have the refrigerator space for a full meal. It’s also like the perfect combination of couture and comfort food, designed to elicit the feelings of fresh, home-cooked meals prepared from childhood, while looking great at the same time.
One of my favourite things about food from India is the fact that, like the dishes themselves and the people who create them, the spices used in Indian cooking are so diverse and vibrant, they more closely resemble an edible work of art than a conglomeration of dried particles dedicated to enhancing a final product. In my opinion, there are few better fragrances than ground cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon… except maybe those scents combined in a delicious cup of chai or with some dark chocolate.
Because this weekend was a bit hectic for me, with family over and me attempting many of these recipes for the first time, today’s post is unfortunately very light on photos. I’ll be honest – attempting samosas was the first recipe I’ve made for this blog that really challenged me. I can make empanadas in my sleep and so I assumed, on some level, that making samosas would be similar in theory; in reality, it’s less like making an empanada and more like folding origami with food. Which actually explains a lot about why I found making them so challenging. That being said, I love samosas, and if you do a better job folding your dough into those pillowy triangles of goodness than I did, I’d love to see how yours turned out!
Despite being immediately synonymous with Indian culture and cuisine, this delicious treat actually originated near Iran in the 10th century. The sanbosag, as it is known in Farsi, was brought to India by Muslim traders in the 13th and 14th centuries, and remain the most well-known variation of the dish to this day, though, thanks to global migration, samosas can be found throughout Central and South Asia and other parts of the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, portions of central and south Africa, Portugal (where they are called chamuças), and the United States.
While samosas are typically fried (thus adding to their deliciousness and comfort potential), I opted instead for the baked version. Baking samosas adds an interesting element to them; they keep all of the character of the ingredients that have been added to the meat, but pick up the flavour of the chutney that they’ve been paired with more strongly than their fried counterparts. Both of the recipes I made for this week’s blog came from Tahera Rawji’s Simply More Indian, which does a gorgeous job of explaining and illustrating the cuisine of India, Pakistan, and East Africa, with a few tweaks of my own; to make the samosas, you will need:
- 3 cups flour
- 3/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 cup margarine
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. ginger paste
- 1 pinch (approx. 1/8 tsp.) red chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tbsp. chopped mint
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
- Add the margarine and rub it into the flour with your fingers; consistency should resemble coarse breadcrumbs.
- Add in water gradually, until dough consistency is soft and pliable (you may need more than the original 3/4 cup, depending on outside conditions).
- Knead dough for 10 minutes.
- Divide dough into six portions; form each portion into a ball.
- Cover dough with a towel; set aside 30 minutes – 1 hour.
- While dough is resting, add ground meat, garlic, ginger paste, chili powder, salt, chopped mint, canola oil, and onion to large pan. Saute over medium-high heat, until onion is soft and translucent and meat is cooked. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Lightly flour work surface and roll out each of the six balls of dough into a 6-inch circle,
- Brush three of the circles with oil and sprinkle lightly with flour. Place the circles over each of the other three circles. Press lightly around the edges of each of the three circles to seal them together.
- Lightly add more flour to work surface and roll each of the three circles out to a diameter of about 14 inches; dough should be around 1/4-1/8 inch thick when rolled out properly.
- Cut each circle into 2.5 inch-wide strips.
- Place 1.5 tsp. filling on one end of a strip of pastry.
- Fold pastry diagonally over filling; pastry should form a triangle at the end of the strip at this stage.
- Make straight fold up with triangular end of strip, then make another diagonal fold in the opposite direction of the first fold.
- Continue folding to the end of the strip.
- Moisten end of pastry with water and press to seal.
- Beat egg; lightly brush outside of pastry with egg.
- Place samosas on baking tray and place in oven.
- Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve with mint or mango chutney (I prefer Patak’s Original or Deep Home Style brand chutneys, but any type of chutney will work just fine).
Another dish I love, that is amazingly easy to make and tastes great while being vegetarian-friendly, is Barazi, pigeon peas (toor daal) in coconut sauce. This dish is commonly served as a typical Sunday meal for families in East India, but is traditionally accompanied by Mandazi, a fry bread-style treat often referred to as “Swahili Buns,” for those in the region who celebrate Ramadan. I didn’t make the mandazi this time because of time constraints, but will definitely be testing out the recipe the next time I have the opportunity.
To make Barazi, you’ll need:
- 3 (14 oz.) cans pigeon peas
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 green chiles, sliced in half (do not de-seed; the coconut milk will absorb most of the heat from the chiles)
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 2 (13.5 oz.) cans coconut milk
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- Open and drain cans of pigeon peas.
- Place pigeon peas in a medium-large pot and cover with enough water to cover the beans with 3 inches of water above the beans; cook over medium-high heat until tender (about 30 minutes).
- Drain water from pot; add rest of ingredients to pot and stir.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring intermittently. When mixture begins to boil, let cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
Share your photos of your samosa-making skills with us – leave a comment on our Facebook page or Twitter, with the hashtag #humblebeginnings! Like our spice design? Visit our online store to get your own today! And don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list, to find out what we’re cooking up next!
Fun fact: Water was first discovered on the moon by Indian space probe Chandrayaan-1 in 2009. The decimal system, calculus, trigonometry, algebra, and the concept of the number zero were all invented in India. The first female leader of India was Raziya Sultana, who ruled from 1236 CE until her death in 1240 CE.