Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Jozi WAHM's Dummy's Guide to Making Samoosas

Ramadaan, the month in which Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, is just over a month away. This is a spiritual time of deep reflection, prayer and introspection for Muslims.

Somewhat ironically, many Muslims in South Africa in particular spend the period just before Ramadaan obsessing over the preparation of savoury foods to break their fast with at sunset and stockpile freezer loads of the triangular delicacies (together with a back up warehouse of spring rolls, half moons, pies and other cholesterol rich delights). The theory goes, according to elder housewives, that if most of the food preparation is done in advance, there will be more time for prayer during the auspicious month. I am not sure how relevant this argument is given how laborious samoosa making is and given that the frozen samoosas still has to be fried or baked before being eaten, but nevertheless, it has become tradition (in South Africa and other parts of the world) and Ramadaan just would not be the same without them. 

In honor of this samoosa-filled period, I thought I would share a dummy's guide to making these intricate snacks.

Recipe 1:

Okay, maybe I should not call this a recipe but it works perfectly! The ultimate dummy technique, which I favour, is to find a little old Indian or Cape Malay lady who slaves away every day making samoosas and pay her to do it. 

This site is all about encouraging, celebrating and supporting work from home moms and Johannesburg has hundreds, if not more, of these little old lady WAHM's running little home industries, as do other South African cities. Some will even make the samoosas using your filling if you so wish, and provide you with the frozen goodies, which you will just have to fry.

Given how much time is invested in making samoosas, I would strongly suggest this route if you are short on time.

Recipe 2:

If you really want to make your own samoosas, read on. I am by no means an expert in samoosa making (mine taste decent but I am quite slow at folding them, unlike the more experienced makers who do it at lightning speed).

The instructions here use ready made 'pur' (the samoosa pastry). I made my own once but quite frankly it is not worth the effort. The pur can be bought frozen (it can be found in the frozen food section of most major grocery stores, though nicer homemade ones are available at Indian grocery stores and butcheries).

You will need to defrost your pur for a few hours or overnight. In the meantime, you can prepare your filling of choice and leave it to cool. 

I will share a recipe below which can be used with chicken, steak or mutton mince, but you could also do cheese and corn, spicy potato or virtually any other filling.

The filling:

500 g mince
2 finely chopped onions
Green chillies, finely chopped (to taste, depending how hot you like things)
A squeeze of lemon juice, 
pepper and salt to taste
1 small bunch of chopped coriander (dhania)
1/2 teaspoon of ginger and garlic mix
1/2 teaspoon gharam masala (available from any spice shop)


Saute the onions in a bit of oil until golden brown. Braise the mince in the above ingredients until the mince is cooked and dry. Soggy mince is your enemy when folding later on so this is crucial. Season with the chopped coriander. Leave to cool for later use.

While you are filling your samoosas, keep the unused samoosa pur covered with a clean cloth to prevent it from drying out.

The pur will come stacked in a big pile, usually of a hundred sheets. Carefully peel off one layer of pur, being careful not to tear it. (Some people use a double layer of pur for cheese samoosas as they tend to burst while frying). P.S. if you do accidentally tear some of the strips, do not use them for samoosas. Instead you can cut into smaller strips and fry for a snack similar to potato chips. 

Now comes the tricky part. You need to fold the samoosa as shown in the picture below.

The instructions below comes from a 1960's recipe book called the Indian Delights, which remains the authority on South African Indian Cooking (like every Afrikaans household has 'Kook en Geniet', almost every South African Indian household still has a copy of this gem).

Courtesy of Indian Delights by Zuleikha Mayat
zuleikha mayat

The next few pictures illustrate the above using paper and tissue "filling". Chinese Origami may seem easier at this point.
samoosa pur folding how to
Top left: First fold | Top right: Second fold | Bottom left: Filling added | Bottom right: Third fold
After the first two folds, you would have created a little triangular pocket. You add about a tablespoon of the filling into the pocket you have created. Do not overfill as you will battle to close it. Then you do another fold to close the open flap at the top of your pocket. Well done, you have completed the hard bit! Then you just keep on folding until your strip is used up.

Make sure that your corners are tightly sealed or the oil will seep in while you are frying, leaving you with a greasy samoosa.

Once complete, you seal the samoosa with a dab of paste made out of flour and water (add just enough water to the flour to make a sticky paste).

Samoosas taste best deep-fried until golden brown but if you would like a healthier alternative, you can brush with olive oil and bake, or you could use an airfryer.

Serve with your favourite chutney and slices of lemon and enjoy!