Enter the Samosa

I always seem to fall back on the same few recipes when Jeremy brings home ground beef. Burgers, meatballs, chili, meatloaf, the occasional bolognese—they get old after a while. This week I decided to mix things up and make cottage pie, meatloaf, and dumpling-topped chili. Okay, I know—not exactly far off the beaten path, but the chili was a new recipe using cocoa powder and I tweaked the cottage pie ever so slightly with a marbled mashed potato and yam top. The meatloaf was, well, ordinary meatloaf with broccoli-mashed potatoes that my son was actually willing to eat.

After all those run-of-the-mill meals, we were ready for something a little off the beaten path, as least as far as our dinner table is concerned. Enter the samosa. Automatically, they have the dumpling factor going for them. I made pretty simple beef and potato samosas, and kneaded toasted cumin seeds into the dough. Apparently the key to samosa dough is to thoroughly stir the oil into the flour before adding any liquids, and of course to let it rest.

Being unfamiliar with professionally shaped samosas, I’m sure my technique could use a great deal of work. The basic idea is to roll out rounds of dough no thicker than a dime and about 6-8 inches across. You cut each circle in half, orient them with the cut side on top, and fold the sides in to the center. I thought mine ended up looking kind of like spotted moths.

Once the samosas are shaped, it is simply a matter of frying them up like egg rolls or wontons. Yes, I understand that you could also bake them, but it’s just not quite the same. Note that while the samosa dough was resting, I cooked up a batch of rice and made a little accompaniment of apple chutney with pink peppercorns for punch. The tangy, fruity chutney cut through the heaviness of the samosas nicely.

I liked these, but honestly, I suspect I would prefer the potato-pea version. Cumin isn’t my favorite spice, and it was a little strong in the dough for my taste, but could certainly be reduced or omitted. As for the shaping, practice makes perfect, and I think I probably could have filled my samosas more aggressively; I had more than enough filling leftover and some of them seemed kind of flat. Still, a fun new variation on dumplings for me, and one that I am sure we will be returning to before long.

Beef and Potato Samosas

2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 T cumin or ajwain seeds, toasted in a dry pan
4 T vegetable oil or ghee
4 T water, or more as needed

1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 T olive oil
1/2 C chopped yellow onion
1/2 C carrot, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 C frozen peas
1/4 C water
1 C cooked potato, coarsely mashed

About 1 quart of vegetable oil for frying

Sift flour, salt, and toasted cumin seeds into a mixing bowl. Stir in vegetable oil with your hands until a crumbly mixture is achieved. Add the water and mix until you have a soft dough; knead for 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the outside with vegetable oil. Wrap or place the dough into a plastic bag and set it aside for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat, smashing with a spoon to make the pieces as small as possible. Transfer cooked beef to a colander on top of a bowl to strain grease. In the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots; cook 3 minutes. Return ground beef to the pan, and stir in cumin, kosher salt, turmeric and garam masala. Pour water over the top and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes or until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas and potato, and remove from heat.

Divide dough into 8-10 balls. Working one at a time and keeping the remaining dough covered, roll out a ball into a 6-8″ circle, no thicker than a dime. Cut in half to create two half circles, and orient cut side at top. Place 2 tablespoons of filling mixture in the center of each. Working individually, fold both halves down over the top of the filling (see the photos for technique) and pinch the seams firmly—brush edges with a little water or egg wash first if you are concerned about leakage. Place filled samosas on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat as you work.

Heat oil to 350F in a cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pot. Fry samosas a few at a time until golden, blistered, and crisp, about 3-4 minutes, turning them over halfway through frying. Remove with tongs, drain on paper towels, and serve with chutney.

Source: Adapted from Life’s Ambrosia.

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