Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cottage Party!

My whole family recently held our annual summer get-together at my parents' cottage, and as it was a potluck type affair, I was expected to bring some nibblies.For a bit of a change, I decided to make some Spicy Potato Samosas. I happen to really like samosas, and spicy ones especially, but they're not the kind of thing that normally makes an appearance at one of our family functions. More about these later.

After a swim and the traditional game of softball in the nearby park, the food came out.The normal menu for one of our shindigs goes something like this: Burgers and hotdogs cooked on the BBQ (normally by my brother, my dad or myself), with a few veggie patties thrown in for my cousin Kristen who's a vegetarian. (Side note: veggie pattie technology must have made great strides in the last few years, because I tried one at this year's party and it was pretty darn tasty. But you didn't hear that from me.) Then a cornucopia of salads including green salads, potato salads, a few pasta salads, and my personal favourite - the marshmallow Jell-O salad. In addition to these, there are always lots of potato chips, the mandatory spinach dip served in the sourdough bread bowl, my mother's excellent crab dip (which is specifically requested by my cousins), shrimp rings with seafood sauce, and whatever weird concoction I've decided to whip up for the occasion.

Then there was dessert. Trays of brownies, lemon squares, Rice Krispies squares, a raspberry-rhubarb pie (love the rhubarb), slices of watermelon and other stuff which I can't remember.

As I metioned above, this year I made Potato Samosas. I found the recipe in a great cookbook I picked up at a church book sale a few months back, called "Street Food". It features recipes for common street food from around the world.My experience with making these samosas was similar to that of making pierogies for the first time back in February. I made the dough, and while that was resting covered with a damp towel, I made up the filling.Mmmmm. That's some spicy comfort food. There's an entire large jalapeno pepper in there. I was hoping that it wouldn't be too spicy for the gang, but everyone seemed to like them.

Rolling out the dough and assembling the samosas was a bit of a chore. This was actually my second attempt at making the dough, because the first time I did something wrong, (I'm still not sure what it was) and the dough just would not stay together. It kept crumbling on me, and no matter what I did it would not adhere to itself and allow me to roll it out. I added a bit more water, then it was too wet, so I added a little more flour, etc etc. Anyway, I ended up chucking the whole thing into the bin. This time however, everything went OK and I had some really nice-looking dough to work with. One thing I changed concerned the butter in the dough. The recipe calls for ghee or clarified butter, but ghee is really expensive and clarified butter is a royal pain to make, so I just used regular butter softened in the microwave. It seemed to work just fine, so I'm going to continue doing it that way.

I ran into a bit of a problem when the recipe said "with a large cookie-cutter or glass, cut out about four six-inch circles." Do you know anyone who owns a glass with a six-inch diameter? Seriously, that's a big glass. None of my cookie-cutters were big enough either, but I discovered that the lid of my food processor is exactly six inches across, so I used that.Assembling the samosas took a couple of tries before I got it right. You take a semi-circle of dough, make it into a cone by moistening and joining the edges, spoon a little of the filling in, moisten the top then fold it over and seal to form a tight little triangular package. The diagram in the cookbook makes it look easy, but it took a little stretching and adjusting of the dough to get the look I wanted. Anyway, I managed to get 27 regular sized samosas and four or five large ones.I deep-fried them all in my handy-dandy deep fryer for about 3 minutes apiece, but they weren't really golden brown when they come out. They were nice and crispy, and they tasted great, so I didn't worry about it too much. Of course, then they had to go into the fridge overnight, and survive a trip to the cottage the next day.

When I got to the cottage, I took them out and had a look. They'd gone a little soft, so before I served them, I put them into a 400F oven for 15 minutes. This worked like a charm and they came out looking like the picture at the top of the post. Fully cooked, nice and crispy and golden brown. Because the family had been nibbling before the rest of the gang arrived, y'know, just to make sure they were OK, I only had about 20 left when the time came to serve them. Everyone got one, and everyone seemed to like them, so mission accomplished.

Like the aforementioned pierogies, due to the messy nature of this recipe, and to the pain-in-the-ass factor of rolling and assembling them, the next time I will double or triple the recipe, make about a hundred of 'em, and just freeze the lot for a rainy day. I think next time also, that I will try the lamb variation in the cookbook.

Spicy Potato Samosas
Makes: 32 Samosas

3 C All-Purpose flour
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp ghee or clarified butter
¾ C ice water

Spicy Potato Filling
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
3 C frozen peas, defrosted and drained
1 tbsp finely grated, peeled fresh ginger root
1 fresh hot green chili pepper (I used a jalapeno)
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander or Chinese Parsley)
3 tbsp water
1½ lbs new potatoes, boiled in their jackets, peeled and lightly mashed
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 C vegetable oil

* Sift the flour with the salt into a deep bowl. Add the butter and combine with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour the water over the mixture all at once, knead vigorously,and form the dough into a ball. If it crumbles, add up to 4 more tbsp of water, one at a time until the particles adhere. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough by folding it and pressing it down and pushing it backward for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth.
* Making the dough can also be done in a food processor. Place the flour and salt in the work bowl. Add the butter, and process with 10 to 12 on/off pulses. Pour in the ice water and process until the mixture becomes a dough. Add a little water, if needed. No vigorous kneading is necessary.
* Form the dough into a ball, brush it lightly with butter or oil, and place it in a bowl. Cover with a damp towel to keep it moist. Let it rest for about 30 minutes. The dough can remain at room temperature for up to 5 hours.
* While the dough rests, prepare the filling. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large skillet. Add the onion, and stir-fry over medium heat for a few minutes, until the onion is lightly brown. Add the peas, ginger, green chili, cilantro, and water. Cover and simmer until the peas are cooked, stirring ocasionally and adding a little more water, if mecessary.
* Add the potatoes, salt, ground coriander, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, and lemon juice. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
* To shape the samosas, divide the dough into fourths. On a lightly floured board, roll out one piece of dough as thinly as possible (very important). Keep the unused dough covered. With a large cookie cutter or a glass, cut out about four six-inch circles. You should be able to get about four circles from each piece of dough. Cut each circle in half.
* Moisten the edges of the dough with your finger dipped in water. Holding the semi-circle of dough in your hand, shape it into a cone. Fill the cone with 1 tbsp of the filling. Moisten and press the top edge over the filling to form a tight triangle. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. The pastries may be kept on a lightly floured plate, covered, for 2 to 3 hours before they are fried.
* To fry the samosas, heat the 2 cups vegetable oil in a deep heavy skillet, or deep fryer to 375F. Deep-fry the turnovers, a few at a time, for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once, until they turn golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot. They can be kept warm in a 200F oven in a baking dish lined with paper towels.
* These samosas can be frozen. To reheat, place frozen into a 400F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.


evelyn said...

Great shots of samosa construction - fun post, great read. That goes for the Pot Roast post as well, one of my all time faves!

Ian said...

Thanks, Evelyn! Despite my kvetching, the samosas were fun to make, and I highly recommend the pot roast recipe. Cheers!