Friday, July 22, 2011
It seems like aeons ago; I had watched my college bakery make samosas from scratch and that was a clear memory I held for many years. As part of our curriculum, we had to register ourselves in the National Cadet Corps or with the National Service Scheme. Obviously, owing to the early hour calls and camp schedules, most of us opted out of the NCC. Thus, we were happily spending Saturday afternoons, under the supervision of two professors, in a small village that our school had adopted, doing nothing big to help them but cleaning up the elementary school and teaching few basic hygiene to the children.
Every now and then, we would carry stuff for the kids there. It was a great feeling to watch a shy smile cross over or to watch a wide toothy grin in acknowledgement. On one such occasion, I was assigned to collect mini samosas from the college-run-bakery and carry it to the village school.
I waited in the stuffy hot kitchen, watching the cooks make them,without actually paying any attention. Irrespective of the fact that I did not watch carefully, I could recall every detail of the activity, that is even today!
My mother makes samosas just by rolling out small size puris, placing the filling and folding the outer dough in two and then deep frying the same. I was also doing the same, until one day when I was making them, my niece suggested that I roll the dough in a big disc and cut strips and fold the dough over the filling. Surprisingly, this process was faster than rolling small samosas individually.
However, now I have discovered Mrs. Mallika Badrinath's book; her recipe in procedure matches the one I watched way back in the bakery. The only change to the recipe is that I use, like my mother, semolina in the place of all purpose flour to make the dough. That is by habit and no particular reason. My mother is one of those few people who dislike potatoes, so she makes fillings with other vegetables. I make them with even more interesting fillings, depending on the mood and availability of ingredients. The filling shared here is just basic.
For the outer dough pastry:
1 cup very fine semolina (I use Durum wheat semolina) (you may use all purpose flour/chiroti rawa)
2 tablespoons oil
Salt as required
1/4 cup of ice cold water (you may not require this full quantity, depending on the quality of the semolina)
1/8th teaspoon soda-bi-carbonate
For the filling:
2 large potatoes
10 french beans
1/4 cup shelled green peas
1 large onion chopped finely
Salt as required
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon dry mango powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon anardhana seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons oil
For spreading in between the sheets of rolled dough:
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 teaspoons oil
Few teaspoons all purpose flour for dusting and rolling
Oil for deep frying
(you can add any more vegetables, crumbled paneer,sprouts and many more)
Chop onion finely. Wash, peel and cube the potatoes and carrots. String the french beans.
Steam cook the vegetables until soft to mash coarsely and bind. Add the salt and mix well.
Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Add the onions and saute' them.
Add all the powders listed and finally add the cooked vegetables. Toss them in the pan for a few minutes so the flavours blend.
The filling is ready. You can make this ahead and refrigerate for some time (few hours).
For the outer layers:
Mix the soda-bi carb and salt to the semolina. Rub the oil in the mix and incorporate well.
Gradually add ice cold water and mix the ingredients to a firm dough. Mix for many minutes to make the dough elastic.
Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth to avoid the drying of the surface. Rest the dough for at least half an hour.
This next step is what my mother would do to make the dough very elastic:
She would place the dough in the grinding stone and pound it well with a pestle, turning it over repeatedly.
I choose to drop moderate sized pieces of the dough in my mixer and pulse a few minutes.
If you are making fairly large quantities, use the kneading hooks in your electric mixer or the dough attachment in the processor.
This surely aids to better elasticity of the dough than kneading with hands.
Once done, roll the dough back to a cylinder and pinch out big lemon size portions.
Roll these into thin flat discs dusting minimal flour as possible.
Place them aside, covered with the damp cloth.
Once you have rolled out four or five such discs, take one at a time on the board.
Take the oil and flour listed under 'for spreading.....dough'.
Spray some oil and spread it over the surface of the rolled dough. Sprinkle some flour over the greased dough disc.
Place the next rolled disc on top of this and repeat the spraying of oil and sprinkling of the flour.
Repeat this procedure for all the four or five rolled out discs.
If you have more dough, the same procedure as above has to be followed until all dough is used up.
Keep these prepared discs also covered in the damp cloth until you are ready for the next step.
Place a flat pan / tawa on the stove. When the pan is hot, lift the whole of the 4-5 rolled-and-prepared discs and place them on the hot griddle.
Allow half a minute for the under-most side to cook.
Flip the whole, so the side that was top facing thus far, is placed on the heated surface directly.
Now, the already part-cooked side is the top most at this point, gently peel it off and place it on the board.
Repeat this turning-cooking-and-peeling off procedure until all the four or five have been cooked partly on one side.
Try to place the uncooked side facing upwards when you take them back to the board.
Cut these discs in 1and 1/2 inch (1&1/2") wide strips.
Now place a small quantity of the filling on one edge of the strip. Roll this over so as to cover the filling on two sides. Again roll another fold to cover the open part. Roll repeatedly until the end of the strip. Thus you would have rolled them in a triangular shape, in few layers, covering the vegetable filling well with the dough.
Rub some water on the edge of the strip and paste it well to seal it.
The procedure looks cumbersome and intimidating to read, but it is very easy to actually do it. I hope the picture above is helpful in conveying the idea. The steps marked from 1 to 14 show this process.
Repeat the same process with all the dough / strips.
Heat the oil for deep frying in a heavy pan. When the oil is hot and ready, drop the samosas gently in the oil as many as would fit. Deep fry until well done on all sides.
Serve them hot with green chutney and ketchup.
You can prepare them ahead until the stage where you roll the samosas and freeze them.
Once rolled, covered and sealed in the edges, place them on trays, slightly apart and cover with a cling wrap. Freeze them in the freezer.
Whenever, you are ready to use them, remove just as many as you might require, and thaw just until the oil is hot and ready. In such a case, be prepared for some spluttering of the oil as freezer cold samosas touch the near smoking hot oil.
This is very helpful when making them in bulk for parties.
There is no way that you can have exact strips and exact filling. Try to make the filling somewhat extra, and any left over is always easy to reuse.
Samosas are truly a treat, be it a party or just an evening snack. Once you have made samosas try making samosa chaat and be sure it is another addictive dish.