Whenever we go to Indiatown to stock up on spices, we arrange to go right around lunchtime, so we can stop at MotiMahal and get a plate of samosas and chole. Their samosas and chole are very good and the samosas are as satisfying as any we’ve had outside of India.
Or at least they were until last Sunday.
But I’ll get back to Sunday’s samosas. First, indulge me as I reminisce about the best samosas we ever had. Samosas so good that we vaguely considered backtracking to get more but weren’t quite willing to deal with the consequences.
We were on the last stretch of an amazing journey that had taken us mostly by train from Calcutta to Varanasi to Lucknow to Allahabad to Khajuraho and were en route for Calcutta to catch our plane home. We had stayed the night in Satna, one of the most unpicturesque places we’ve ever encountered. It was a busy city (who knows what all those business men were doing in Satna? it seemed like a one-horse town) and when we arrived in the evening, we had barely managed to get a hotel room. Our train was due to leave at 8:00 the next morning; all we wanted to do was sleep. All the other occupants of the hotel wanted to do was anything but sleep….
Here is what I scrawled in my diary:
Excerpt from my Voluminous Diary:
Sunday 31 December, 07:40 – Satna Train Station:
What a nightmare at the Park Hotel last night. […] The room was filled with mosquitoes. They sprayed the room but we discovered this morning that the “screened” window was [propped] in front of a wide open one. So it was freezing in the room and the mosquitoes just kept filing in with their bibs on. […]
It was incredibly noisy and we didn’t sleep very well. It was a great wave of human noise and commotion that ebbed and crested liike a great rolling sea. And it was punctuated all night long by people washing dishes (stainless steel and brass) cracking them on the pavement, music blaring from nearby rooms, (3:00am! 4:00am!) people coughing their scurvy phlegm, (1:30am! 3;37am!) people calling Vijay! Vijay!, room buzzers sounding like an ill padded bell – clunk clunk clunk clunk – to sumon waiters, (went on continuoulsy) flipflops slapping the hallways, ebbing and cresting , ebbing and cresting all night long. […]
– postcard to Canada
Needless to say, we were exhausted. I can’t remember now if we actually managed to find breakfast that morning but I do remember that just before leaving Satna, we stopped at a tea stall near the train station and bought some samosas to have on the several hour train journey.
They turned out to be the best samosas we have ever had. Ever.
Was it because we were starving? Exhausted? Relieved to be gone from the din? We don’t think so. Those samosas were sublime.
So. If you ever find yourself wandering around in a daze near the train station in Satna, look for the tea stall that sells samosas. And buy several for your train journey. You won’t be sorry.
But if you aren’t quite in the vicinity at this moment, you can make pretty spectacular samosas to rival the Satna samosas right now. Sunday’s radically changed recipe for Greek Easter Bread pretty much outlined what we did to make our recent samosas but it bears repeating without all the strikeouts:
loosely based on the recipe for samosas on Manjula’s Kitchen.
- 0.75c (180ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 0.25c (60ml) whole wheat flour
- 1 Tbsp semolina flour
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- some boiling water
- good shot of potato and pea curry
- In a bowl, mix flours, oil and salt. Add boiling water gradually, stirring with a fork until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and you have a soft dough. The amount of water will vary drastically depending on air temperature and humidity. You just have to play with it. You want a softish dough.
- Using as little extra flour as possible, knead on a board for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and silky. Put the dough back in the bowl. Cover with a plate and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes to one hour.
- filling Use this aloo chops recipe to make potato and pea curry: omit the chickpea flour and add cashews (if you have them) and peas to the potato mixture. Set aside.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly flour each one and put 7 pieces back in the bowl, keeping them well apart. Cover the bowl. Form the leftover piece of dough into a ball and flatten it. Roll it out into an round until it is quite thin, but not too thin (this is again is one of those infuriating things where you will just have to practice to find out what thinness works best for you). As you roll out the dough, make sure it is not sticking to the board and that there are no holes. Keep the rolling pin lightly dusted with as little flour as possible and the board the same way.
- Cut the round lengthwise in half. Use your wet finger (use water rather than licking it as at least one teenager I know was going to do… :lalala:) all around the edges. Fold one third of the half-round over to begin to create a triangle. The pointy part will be on the straight part of the round. Lift it up so that the walls stay separate as you fold the other third over to create a cone.
- Hold the cone in your hand as if you were holding an ice cream cone. Seal the edges well and set the filled samosa on a plate. Repeat with other half round. Roll out and fill the rest of the dough pieces in the same way.
- Heat good shot of oil in a pot (about half a finger deep) over medium heat. To check if oil is hot enough, dip a wooden chopstick in. If it bubbles, the oil is ready.
- Put each filled cone into the put but don’t crowd them (do 3 or 4 at a time). Use a slotted spoon to turn them around in the oil until they are golden brown all over. As they are done, remove to a drain in a wire basket.
Samosas can be served at room temperature, but we like to serve them immediately with pear and/or tamarind chutneys and chole (chickpea curry). Garnish with coriander leaf.
Chole (Chickpea Curry)
based on our recipe for Rogan Josh
- dried chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
- cold water
- pinch baking soda
- 4 whole dried cayenne chilis
- boiling water
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 black cardamom pods
- 10 green cardamom pods, seeds only
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp whole cloves
- 3 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 2 med onions, sliced
- 2 inch fresh ginger, chopped finely
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- seasalt, to taste
- 2 tsp garam masala
- coriander leaves (cilantro), to garnish
- On the evening before you are going to make the chole, sort (to remove stones) and wash the chickpeas well. Place them in a bowl large enough for the beans to triple. Add plenty of cold water and a pinch of baking soda – the beans will expand – add a little more water than you think is necessary. Cover the bowl and leave to soak overnight.
- The next morning, remove any beans that are floating. Drain and rinse the beans. Discard the soaking water. Put the drained beans in a big pot and cover with fresh cold water. DO NOT ADD SALT. Bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to a low simmer. Cover, and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until beans are tender (If you didn’t add baking soda to the soaking water, it will take at least 4 times as long to cook the beans). The outer husks will still be firm when the insides are soft. They are done when the insides of the beans are soft. Take the beans off the heat and set aside.
- While the chickpeas are simmering, just cover 3 dried cayenne chilis with boiling water and leave for 20 – 30 minutes to soften. Purée to make into a paste. Set aside.
- In a wok, blacken the fourth chili in hot oil.
- To prevent the risk of burning the spices, add the onions to the hot oil and cook them until they are just beginning to colour. Add ginger, garlic, spices and cook for about half a minute more.
- Add tomato paste, chili paste, bay leaves and chickpeas. Salt to taste. Turn down the heat, cover and allow to simmer gently for about 30 minutes to meld the flavours.
- Just before serving, stir in garam masala. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
Serve the chole in bowls drizzled with a little plain yoghurt thinned with water, tamarind chutney and garnish with coriander leaf and chopped green chiles if you like. Chole is great with samosas. It is also wonderful served with aloo chops as part of a vegetarian dinner.
- SAVEUR Magazine
» Potato Dumplings with Tamarind Chutney
- Shaping techniques
» Manjula’s Kitchen | Samosa
- recipes from OUR kitchen
» Indian vegetable recipes
» Flatbread recipes (including naan)
» Indian dessert recipe
» puliyinji – (Indian-style Tamarind Ginger Chutney)
» pear chutney
» rogan josh – substitute cooked chickpeas for the meat in the rogan josh recipe to make chole (chickpea curry)
» lablabi; Chickpea Soup with Harissa and Croutons – steps 1 and 2 in lablabi recipe show how to cook dried chickpeas
» blog recipes index
» recipes from OUR kitchen – index
We didn’t have any curry leaves on hand to make puliyinji so T made a different kind of tamarind chutney to go with our samosas. It was easily as wonderful (different, of course) as puliyinji. Stay tuned for the recipe; I’ll try to remember to post the recipe soon.
Taking photos fo this was even more difficult than usual. The little black furry creature posing as a young cat was alternately assuming that it was time for a rousing game of “Pounce” at our feet or leaping onto the stepstool, very curious about what was going into the bowl. For me??? Is that for me????