The Story Of The Glorious Samosa

The samosa, now a popular snack in many parts of the world, has a rich and varied history that traces back centuries and spans multiple regions. I can’t think of any restaurant with pretensions to be Asian that doesn’t offer a samosa on the menu. vegetarian or meat-based, all are part of a culture that has gobe global.

Origins

The samosa is believed to have originated in the Middle East, where it was known by different names such as “sanbosag” or “sanbusak.” Historical records suggest that the dish was popular in the region as early as the 10th century. These early versions of the samosa were small, triangular pastries filled with minced meat, nuts, and spices.

Spread to South Asia

The samosa made its way to the Indian subcontinent during the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526 CE). It is said that traders and travelers brought the recipe from Central Asia and Persia. By the time of the Mughal Empire (1526-1857 CE), the samosa had become well-established in Indian cuisine. The Indian version evolved to include a variety of fillings, such as potatoes, peas, lentils, and spices, adapting to local tastes and ingredients.

Evolution in South Asia

In India, the samosa underwent significant transformation. The introduction of vegetarian fillings, such as spiced potatoes and peas, made it a popular snack among the predominantly vegetarian Hindu population. The samosa also became larger in size compared to its Middle Eastern counterparts. Street vendors and small eateries played a crucial role in popularizing the samosa, making it a ubiquitous street food.

Global Spread

With the migration of Indians during the British colonial period, the samosa traveled to various parts of the world, including Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and North America. Each region adapted the samosa to local tastes and available ingredients, leading to a variety of regional versions. For instance, in East Africa, samosas often contain meat fillings and are a common part of the cuisine in countries like Kenya and Tanzania.

Contemporary Variations

Today, samosas are enjoyed worldwide in various forms. In India and Pakistan, they are typically served with chutneys and are an essential part of tea-time snacks and festive occasions. In the UK, samosas are a popular item in Indian restaurants and supermarkets. The fillings have also diversified, with contemporary versions including cheese, noodles, and even chocolate.

Cultural Significance

The samosa has transcended its origins to become more than just a snack. It is a symbol of cultural fusion and culinary adaptation, reflecting the history of migration and cultural exchange. Its enduring popularity across different cultures and regions underscores its versatility and universal appeal.

The samosa’s journey from its Middle Eastern origins to its current global presence is a testament to its adaptability and the rich tapestry of culinary history it represents.

This is a recipe based on one I’ve seen from the Balti Hut in Coleford. This is the vegetarian version!

Vegetarian Samosa

These vegetarian samosas are filled with potato, peas, carrot, and onion. This recipe makes about 12 samosas, enough to serve 4 people. It takes an hour or told.

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oil or ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Water (about 1/2 cup or as needed)

For the Filling:

  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, and diced
  • 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 green chilies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon

For Frying:

  • Oil for deep frying

Preparation

Prepare the Dough:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Add the oil or ghee and mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Gradually add water, a little at a time, and knead into a firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Filling:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add cumin seeds and let them splutter.
  3. Add chopped onions and sauté until they turn golden brown.
  4. Add grated ginger and green chilies, and sauté for another minute.
  5. Add diced carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly tender.
  6. Add boiled potatoes and green peas. Mix well.
  7. Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala, red chili powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
  8. Cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, mashing the potatoes slightly as you go.
  9. Turn off the heat and stir in chopped cilantro and lemon juice. Let the filling cool completely.

Assemble the Samosas:

  1. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball.
  2. Roll each ball into a thin oval or circle (about 6 inches in diameter).
  3. Cut each circle in half to form two semicircles.
  4. Take one semicircle and fold it into a cone shape, sealing the edge with a little water.
  5. Fill the cone with 1-2 tablespoons of the potato filling.
  6. Seal the open edges of the cone by pressing them together with a little water.
  7. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Fry the Samosas:

  1. Heat oil in a deep pan or fryer over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot (about 350°F or 175°C), gently slide in a few samosas, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  3. Fry the samosas, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and crisp (about 5-7 minutes).
  4. Remove the samosas with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  5. Repeat with the remaining samosas.

Serve

Serve the samosas hot with your favorite chutneys (such as mint, tamarind, or yogurt chutney) and enjoy!

Tips

  • Make sure the filling is cool before stuffing the samosas to prevent the dough from getting soggy.
  • Fry the samosas on medium heat to ensure they cook through evenly and become crispy.

This next version is for Punjabi-Style Chicken Samosas. I picked up a pack of these the other day and have had a go at recreating them because they taste extremely nice.

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup smoked sunflower oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Water (about 1/2 cup or as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon ajwain seeds

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 pound (225g) chicken thighs, finely chopped (28% of the filling)
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, and diced (14% of the filling)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (8% of the filling)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons smoked sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon ground garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika extract (for color)

For Frying:

  • Oil for deep frying

Preparation

Prepare the Dough:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and ajwain seeds.
  2. Add the smoked sunflower oil and mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Gradually add water, a little at a time, and knead into a firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Filling:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of smoked sunflower oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the finely chopped onions and sauté until golden brown.
  3. Add the butter and let it melt, then stir in the tomato paste.
  4. Add the finely chopped chicken thighs and cook until the chicken is no longer pink.
  5. Add the boiled and diced potatoes, and mix well.
  6. Stir in all the ground spices (coriander, paprika, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cardamom, mace, fenugreek) and the ground bay leaves. Cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  7. Add salt to taste and ground garam masala. Mix well.
  8. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, ensuring everything is well combined and cooked through.
  9. Remove from heat and let the filling cool completely. Garnish with finely chopped fresh cilantro and mix in the paprika extract for color.

Assemble the Samosas:

  1. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball.
  2. Roll each ball into a thin oval or circle (about 6 inches in diameter).
  3. Cut each circle in half to form two semicircles.
  4. Take one semicircle and fold it into a cone shape, sealing the edge with a little water.
  5. Fill the cone with 1-2 tablespoons of the chicken filling.
  6. Seal the open edges of the cone by pressing them together with a little water.
  7. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Fry the Samosas:

  1. Heat oil in a deep pan or fryer over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot (about 350°F or 175°C), gently slide in a few samosas, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  3. Fry the samosas, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and crisp (about 5-7 minutes).
  4. Remove the samosas with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  5. Repeat with the remaining samosas.

Serve

Serve the samosas hot with your favourite chutneys (such as mint or tamarind chutney).

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