By Meera Sodha
Samosas probably are India’s favorite snack. These crispy triangles are loved by everyone from Bollywood actresses to business managers and toddlers to grandmas.
When I was growing up, samosas made an appearance at any significant family gathering, whether it was small and festive or a huge celebration. A week or so prior to the big event, my mother, sister and I would form a production line in the kitchen. My mother would make the filling, my sister would fill the samosas (I could not be trusted not to eat the mixture) and I would fold them into neat triangles.
The samosas then would be covered with plastic wrap and frozen on sheet pans, ready to be baked a few minutes ahead of our guests’ arrival, leaving us all happy and out of the kitchen to enjoy the party.
Traditionally, samosas are filled with a medley of mixed vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and carrots or minced meat and herbs, then deep-fried to crisp perfection. In our family kitchen, we’ve evolved them over time to use whatever ingredients grew in our farming community. We also bake them instead of fry so that they’re healthier (and easier to cook).
Some families make their own pastry (which is surprisingly easy), but I like to use phyllo pastry, as it’s quick, light and easily stored in the freezer. During the holiday season, I love to use walnuts and mushrooms together. Their savory flavors marry perfectly and feel very festive. Plus, their meaty textures persuade even the most hardened of carnivores to get involved.
Once you’ve mastered the folding technique, feel free to use this recipe as a blank canvas for whatever spicy filling you desire. After a few goes, the world will be your samosa. (end)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of “Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen.” She lives in London, blogs at www.meerasodha.com and tweets at @meerasodha.
CREMINI MUSHROOM AND WALNUT SAMOSAS
The key to perfecting this mushroom and walnut samosa recipe is to cook the filling mixture until it is dry. This keeps your samosas lovely and crisp. If the mixture is wet, you might get soggy samosas. A food processor also makes swift work of chopping your mushrooms and walnuts. The samosas also can be prepped and frozen, then baked directly from the freezer. Frozen samosas should bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (45 active)
Makes 18 samosas
- 1-1/4 cups walnuts (5 ounces)
- 3 cups cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (plus extra, to garnish)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated
- 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 serrano or jalapeno chilies, finely chopped
- 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 ounces phyllo dough (1/2 a 16-ounce package)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Heat the oven to 400 F
- In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, then add the mushrooms to the processor and pulse until reduced to pea-sized chunks. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the cumin and nigella seeds. When the seeds start to sizzle in the hot oil, add the onion and cook for 8 minutes, or until starting to soften and brown. Add the ginger, garlic and chilies, then cook for another 5 minutes, or until the onions are darkened.
- Add the mushrooms and gently fold into the onion mixture. Season with the salt and pepper, then cook for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid evaporates. There should only be the tiniest trace of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Once the onions and mushrooms are ready, add the walnuts. Cook for another 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool while you get your samosa station ready.
- Line 2 baking sheets with kitchen parchment.
- On a large chopping board, unroll one sheet of phyllo pastry. With a pastry brush, lightly cover the sheet with melted butter, then layer over it a second sheet of pastry. Brush the second sheet with additional butter. Using a sharp knife, cut the sheets into 3 horizontal strips measuring 4-by-10 inches.
- Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture on one end of each strip. Fold the filling over on itself at an angle to form a triangle. Continue folding the filling and pastry over on itself in this way, similar to folding a flag, to form a triangular packet. When you get near the end, stick the final bit of pastry down with a bit of melted butter. Cut off any bits that don’t fall into shape. Pop the samosa on a tray and repeat with remaining ingredients.
- To bake the samosas, brush them on both sides with butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place them in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 170 calories; 120 calories from fat (71 percent of total calories); 14 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 200 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 3 g protein.