Monday, March 24, 2014

A Conundrum with Samosas

Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Butter
Sorry, I couldn't resist the title. Continuing my work on pairing foods with the wines I will serve for the Winefest Renaissance wine tasting event for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club, I decided on Samosas to pair with a Conundrum white wine.  I have made Samosas before, more traditionally. Samosas are a snack type food, usually fried, though mine are baked. The filling I have most often seen for these delicious pockets is potatoes and peas. Last year I noted that the foods that contained no meat had very little interest generated. The ones that caused the most interest were the little Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Butter

Chicken & Raisin Samosas
Chicken & Raisin Samosas
This year I am using some sort of meat in all the appetizers I am making, from smoked salmon, to chicken to sirloin and flank steak. It becomes more interesting to pair food with a wine that has more than one grape variety. The Conundrum white blend contains Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, and Muscat Canelli, but not necessarily in that order. In my lists of foods to pair with the various varietals, potatoes and peas are listed in the Chardonnay column, chicken is in the columns for most white wines, and Indian or spicy foods are listed in some websites specifically for Conundrum. Fruity sauces or salsas pair well with Viognier, so I added Sultanas (white raisins) to the mix. I set about creating a samosa mixture that would cover those things and came up with Chicken & Raisin Samosas. I planned to serve them with a little dab of Mango Chutney, but am rethinking that idea. The sweet chutney may throw off the whole mix if the wine will not support that sweetness. 


Rub fat into flour leaving large, flat flakes in the bowl
Meanwhile, I made a dough for the samosas, which requires a good 8 to 10 minutes of kneading time to build the gluten. Though it is not a yeast dough, the gluten gives the dough its stretchiness, making the forming of the little pockets much simpler, with little tearing. I read long ago that the best way to make the dough is to first "rub" the fat into the flour. In this case, using melted ghee, you just lift up two hands full of the flour/ghee and rub the two hands in one long sweeping motion. Continue this process until there are large "flakes" of dough. Then add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and knead until the dough is nice and stretchy. The dough needs to rest for a time, so if you will be busy in the next couple of hours, just cover the dough and place in the fridge until needed. 

Ajwain or Carom
Ajwain or Carom

Samosa Dough


Enough for about 64 small samosas

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white rice flour
1 teaspoon ajwain seeds, crushed, optional (see below)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons melted ghee or clarified butter
1/2 cup water

In a large bowl mix together the flours, ajwain (also known as Carom seed, or spelled as Ajowain or Ajwan) seed and salt. Pour in the melted ghee and begin lifting and rubbing the mixture together in long motions between the palms. Continue lifting and rubbing together until the ghee is completely incorporated and there are large, flat "flakes" of dough in the bowl. Add in the water and mix to combine, then turn out onto a counter or board to knead. You will not need more flour on the surface. Knead by pressing, folding, pressing and folding over and over for about 8 or 10 minutes. The dough is very stiff. I do not believe it could be kneaded in a heavy duty mixer, as it would just spin around the dough hook. Once kneaded, set aside to rest for at least an hour. If you cannot work with the dough at that time, cover it and place in the refrigerator until needed.

About Ajwain or Carom Seeds - Trachyspermum ammi



Also known by Ajowain, Ajowan, Ajwan and many other spellings. Ajwain is a tiny seed in the Umbelliferae family (like cumin, celery, anise, etc). The seeds have a flavor similar
to a mix of anise and oregano, but more aromatic and bitter. They smell much like thyme, because they contain thymol. The seeds have a tiny stalk attached, much like anise seeds and look similar and are related to celery seed. Carom is popular in Indian dhals or potatoes and is almost always used cooked in a dish as its flavor can be overwhelming when raw. It is good for digestion and is often used in lentil dishes for its anti flatulent effect.



Chicken & Raisin Samosas
Chicken & Raisin Samosas
When I created the recipe for the filling, I was completely unsure of the quantity I would need. I ended up with enough for double the amount of dough I made, so I had to make another batch of the dough. The filling was a sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe, so feel free to change quantities. If you prefer to make half the filling, just halve the quantities as needed. I added in potatoes, though it was not my original intention, as I was concerned it would not be enough. Leaving out the potatoes would work fine, or if you prefer vegetarian, leave out the chicken and keep the potatoes.

Indian recipes very often have a "whole spice masala" as part of the ingredients. I understand the concept, but it can be very difficult to fish out little whole cloves or cardamom seeds, or worse, chomping down on one when eating. I left the bay leaves whole, but crushed finely the cinnamon (use true cinnamon - not cassia), cloves and cardamom seeds. I will list these ingredients as "whole spice masala", and you can do as you choose.

Chicken and Raisin Samosa Filling


Enough for about 64 small samosas

Toast the whole spices in a dry pan, cool, grind

WHOLE SPICE MASALA:
1 bay leave
2 whole cloves
1-inches true cinnamon quill
2 cardamom pods (or about ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds)

1 pound ground chicken 
1½ teaspoons salt
½ large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 knob fresh ginger, peeled, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoons whole coriander seed, crushed
¼ teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder, right
¼ cup golden raisins (or regular raisins or currants)
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely minced, use more or less as desired

½cup peas
¾ pounds potatoes, baked, cooled, peeled

In a large skillet, heat the oil or ghee. Add the whole masala spices (or grind/crush first) and cook until they are fragrant. Add the onion and saute until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic and toss until fragrant. Add the chicken and salt; cook until chicken is no longer pink. Add the coriander, cumin and Garam Masala with the raisins, cilantro and jalapeno, if using. cook for 5 minutes more. Add in the baked, peeled potatoes and use a spatula to break them into small chunks while combining with the chicken mixture. Mix in the peas. Cool the mixture completely before using to fill the samosas.
The dough ball; 1 little piece rolled, then cut in 2
The dough ball; 1 little piece rolled, then cut in 2


To make the samosas, once the dough has rested and the chicken mixture has cooled, cut the dough into half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter in two, and then further divide each eighth into 4 more pieces, making 32 little bits of dough. Roll one of these little bits into a ball, then roll out on a surface (no flour needed) to about a 6 inch circle. Do not worry if the circle is not completely round - it makes no difference. With a large knife, cut the circle into 2. This will be repeated with each little piece of dough.

Steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Lift one half of the dough circle and moisten half of the straight edge with water (Step 1). Bring the rest of that straight edge up to form a little cone shape (Step 2). Press the pointed end closed, then firmly press the edges of the cone so they stay together. Hold the little cone in your hand and place about a rounded tablespoon or so of the cooled filling mixture into the cone (Step 3). Moisten half the cone edge with water (Step 4), then begin pressing the two sides together firmly to seal completely (Step 5). I took this one step further, just to make them cute for the presentation, and pinched that top edge together into little pleats, but this is not necessary. 

The samosas can be frozen as soon as they are done, if needed for a future date. Set them onto baking sheets and in the freezer until hard, then place them in freezer zip top bags. Keep frozen for up to 2 months. When needed, set the frozen samosas onto baking sheets, brush with oil or ghee and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until the outsides are golden. (The insides are already cooked, and only need to be heated through). If desired, the samosas can be deep fried until golden. Another option is to bake them and then briefly turn them in a lesser amount of hot fat to give them the crisp, fried look and taste. Serve them with chutney of choice.

These are great to make ahead for a party. They can be baked when needed and served at room temperature.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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