Samosas are the quintessential Indian tea time snack. Everyone loves samosas, and when ever you crave one in India, only a few blocks away from you you will find be a guy scooping out some fresh samosas from a big pot of hot oil. Needless to say, that option is not available where we live. So when I am craving one, I have to make some on my own.
My favorite are of course the regular potato kinds – about which I have posted in the past. But since I make them every time for any potluck where non-Indians are concerned, I thought I would try a different filling this time.
This time I went for a non vegetarian filling.
Generally, the non vegetarian filling that my mom uses is made from lamb meat, but since I was cooking for my non Indian friends, I decided to go with chicken as the filling. From my experience I have realized that Americans (or at least the ones I have come across) are not too fond of lamb preparations. Maybe that’s why none of the grocery stores in a 100 mile radius of where we stay carry lamb meat.
The chicken filling is fairly simple to make, with the chicken being cooked in whole spices (similar to the khada masala chicken I make).
While ground spices have a significant role in Indian cooking, using whole spices, especially to cook meat imparts a whole new dimension to the food.
When cooking with whole spices, remember that they are always added directly to hot oil when cooking, and they are cooked for a couple of minutes so that they can release their aroma/ oils into the hot oil and flavor the dish.
Powdered spices, on the other hand, are normally not added directly to hot oil. They are added either later in the cooking process (after adding ginger, garlic, onions or tomatoes) or added by mixing some water and forming a paste. The reason for adding them as such is that if they are put directly in hot oil powdered spices will burn very quickly, and result in a not so favorable dish.
Of course using ground spices is definitely a quicker and more convenient way to cook, but whole spices and spices freshly ground from their whole form add depth of flavor to foods that will quickly turn you into a devotee.
To get started, keep the following on hand:
- Cinnamon sticks
- Bay leaf
- Whole cloves
- Green cardamom pods
- Black cardamom
- Fennel seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Whole coriander seeds
- Whole black peppercorns
- Dried red chillies
If the list sounds too big do keep in mind that whole spices keep fresh longer than ground ones, and when you need the powdered spice, just grind as much or as little as you need. To grind the spices, first dry roast whole spices, stirring constantly, in a dry skillet for a brief 30 seconds to a minute over medium heat. Be careful as to not burn the whole spice. The spices and seeds will become fragrant. Remove from heat, let them cool a bit and grind! Remember, it’s best to grind fresh spices just before you use them. The results are worth it! If you happen to have leftover ground spices, store in an air-tight container for up to a month.
So, in case you don’t have whole spices in your pantry, it wouldn’t be too bad an idea to stock them now.
If you need more reasons to stock up on some of the spices, green cardamom is a very good mouth freshener. In fact, V always pops one or two pods in his mouth after a meal to take away any foul smell that raw onions might have left in his mouth!
And do you know that cloves have properties that make it a mild anesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent. For these beneficial effects, you’ll also find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes. Of course, you could also use them in gingerbread and to spice up pumpkin pies!
You will find whole spices in any specialty asian/Indian store.
GARAM MASALA TUESDAYS: CHICKEN SAMOSAS
makes 60 smaller sized samosas
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tbsp rice flour
- 120 ml water (you might need more)
- 1 tsp carom seeds (ajjwain) (optional)
- salt, to taste
- 6 tbsp ghee (you could use shortening or heat butter till frothy and use that)
For the filling:
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves
- 1 2-inch stick cinnamon
- 4 green cardamoms (crush the pods gently to open them slightly)
- 5-8 whole black pepper, slightly crushed
(If making a filling using lamb, use black cardamom and a little mace as well)
- 2 pounds ground chicken (chicken keema)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped ( I got a little more than 2 cups of chopped onions)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 inch piece ginger, ground to a paste
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2 small tomatoes, grated (my mom says grating them ensures that the tomato pieces are not too big and you get all the juice. You could also chop them really finely.)
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- 4-5 green chillies, deseeded and washed (if you want it spicy then you need not deseed the chillies)
- To make the dough and for filling and shaping the samosas check this post out.
- This time instead of frying, I baked the samosas in a preheated 425 F oven for 10 minutes first. And then fried them in hot oil for 30 seconds on each side. Of course, you could bake them completely (just increase the baking time), but since I was taking it for my friends and frying always makes everything taste a tad better (well, at least in my opinion it does), I decided to fry them for a while in hot oil. The best part about baking them first is that you can make a sizeable amount of samosas in a smaller time frame. You could also freeze them after baking them and when ready to eat, fry or re-heat them in the oven.
For the filling:
- In a pan, heat some oil. Once the oil is hot, add the whole spices. Let them cook till you smell a slight aroma. Be careful not to burn them. As the fragrance from the whole spices builds up, add the onions and cook till brown, stirring now and then so that the onion does not burn.
- Add in the ginger-garlic paste. Add in the grated tomato. Cook till the oil separates from the mixture.
- Add the ground chicken and cook it till it changes color and appears cooked.
- Add in the coriander and cumin powder, garam masala and salt. Mix well.
- Add in the finely chopped fresh coriander and peas and cook for another 5 minutes, till the mixture is dry and all the water has evaporated. Remove from fire.
- Before filling, add in the chopped mint and green chillies. Mix well.
Note: The same method can be used to make the lamb filling. Just add some black cardamom and mace to the whole spices.