Growing up, having Singharas and Samosas as “tea time” snacks were really common. Because of the British influence, having “tea” at around 6:00 p.m. everyday was the norm and then dinner would follow about 8:30 – 9:00 p.m. Tea time would usually include all manner of foods, including seasonal fruits, home made snacks, biscuits (cookies), Nimkis (savory home made chips), Singharas or Samosas and tea, of course. Here’s the main difference between a Singhara and a Samosa. Singharas are usually eaten in Bangladesh and in the West Bengal area of India. They have a crispy shell and although they are triangular in shape, they can “sit” upright. Samosas also have a crispy shell but are flat and triangular. The fillings can be as varied as the region and depends on the cook. Some samosas sold street side as snacks have vegetarian fillings, some are beef or chicken while others are tiny and filled with caramelized onions. Most samosas and singharas are served with a chutney or dip of some sort. Usually a Cilantro Chutney or a Tamarind Chutney.
I used to try to avoid making samosas because they are time-consuming. They sure are delicious though and great to have as a treat. I figured out a quick and dirty version of making samosas. Most of the time is taken up in making the dough, rolling it out and shaping them since the filling is pretty fast to cook. I started using tortillas as the shell and really liked how they turned out but they had a little difficulty staying together. Then I discovered the uncooked tortillas. They are sold at any Costco or even in Walmart (and several other grocery stores). Uncooked tortillas are fantastic to use as the dough for samosas, empanadas and a myriad of other dishes. By the way, I usually make a large batch and freeze them in ziplock bags. That way all the up front work is done and when I have guests or need a quick appetizer, I can fry up a batch while they are still frozen and serve fresh and hot with some chutney. Just add a couple of extra minutes when frying frozen samosas. Here’s my quick and dirty version.
Samosas – The quick and dirty version
4 medium-sized potatoes, cooked and cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
2 green chillies, split in half
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup frozen green peas
4 tbsp oil
15 uncooked tortillas
additional oil for frying
To make the paste:
1/2 cup flour
1/4- 1/8 cup water
In a medium skillet or frying pan, heat oil and saute onions, cumin seeds and chilies together until the cumin seeds begin to pop. Add coriander powder, turmeric and salt and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and the green peas and cook about 4-5 minutes until peas are tender and everything well blended together. Set aside.
In a small bowl make a paste out of the flour and water. It should be thick and the consistency of a thick glue. Cut tortillas in half. Place the round side of the cut tortillas towards your body and place about 2 tbsp filling on the top right hand corner. Fold right corner down and place flour paste in an inverted “v” on the dough. Flip the left side of the dough over to form a triangle and press down over the paste to adhere. Flip the triangle around and using your thumbs push in the filling towards the top tip of the triangle. At the bottom of the triangle place some flour paste on the dough and fold it over and press to adhere. Press your fingers along all the seams to make sure everything held together. Place on a pan or platter. When all the Samosas are done they can be frozen in a large zip lock bag for later use or fried immediately. To fry, place oil in a medium size frying pan and heat to about 350 degrees. Fry until golden brown and serve hot with Cilantro or Tamarind Chutney. Makes 30 samosas
Remember the movie “field of dreams” and phrase “if you build it, they will come”? Our house is kind of like that only its “if you cook it, they will come”. Even now that we’re technically empty nesters, it is amazing how much volume of food is produced from my kitchen. I try to be as resourceful as possible and judge how much to cook to minimize leftovers but they still happen and sometimes they are thrust upon you! Earlier this week I inherited 10 baked potatoes. I teach a women’s bible study on Tuesdays and women attend from all different places (and countries) and since it starts at 6 p.m. and many of us are coming straight from work, the women take turns in groups to bring dinner. Since there over 50 of us, nobody has dinner responsibilities more than once. We end up enjoying food from different parts of the world. It’s a great way to feed our bodies and minds! This Tuesday some of the ladies created a baked potato bar and quite a few foil wrapped baked potatoes were left over. I somehow ended up with them. A couple of women even said, do something fun with it and post it on your blog.
Last night I stared at the baked potatoes and about 1/2 a cup of soaked Tapioca left over from another meal I’d recently made. Bengali people love to smash things and call it chops or boras. Smashing foods in the kitchen, I’m in! I also remembered The Great Leftover Challenge from Danny’s Kitchen, I went to the computer to see if I’d missed the deadline (it’s today) Here’s what I came up with:
Potato and Tapioca Bora
3 baked potatoes, shredded
1/2 cup or so of soaked Tapioca
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp approximately of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
salt to taste
fresh ground pepper
3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, I pressed it through a garlic press to make sure there were no big chunks
Oil for frying
Peel the potatoes and grate them. Add all the other ingredients and shape them into little patties and fry them in some vegetable oil. Make sure the oil is hot enough to fry quickly, should take about 4-5 minutes to fry a batch. I used a little pan with some oil so I didn’t end up with a ton of leftover oil. I thought about baking them but I knew that it would not have that crunch. I made some Cilantro chutney as well to use as a sauce.
I enjoy finding bargains and especially food bargains. Today on my grocery store run, I discovered some Edam cheese on sale for only 75 cents for an 8 ounce package. I couldn’t pass up that deal so I decided to buy a few packages. I really enjoy different kinds of cheese but Edam was fairly new to me so I decided to try it out. I loved the soft texture and the medium flavor. I decided that it would be great to try to make homemade crackers with them. How hard could it be? I’d made plain cheese crackers before and thought it would be nice to balance out the flavors of this cheese with some fresh herbs. So, here it is, my little creation. They were fantastic with some fresh salad that had D’Anjou pears in them.
Here’s the recipe:
Thyme and Rosemary Edam Crackers
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup shredded Edam cheese
1 tsp fresh Thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh Rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon water (may take a little less or more)
1 1/4 cup flour
Mix together Rosemary and Thyme with the salt and pepper and rub it together to release the flavors. Set aside. In a mixing bowl cream the butter until smooth and add the cheese and the herb mixture. Slowly add in flour and keep mixing at low speed. If necessary use the tablespoon of water (may take a little more or less depending on the humidity) to make the dough come together. Take out of the bowl and roll into a 9 inch log. Wrap the log with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat liner. Using a very sharp knife cut the log into 1/4 or 3/8 inch slices. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-22 minutes. They should be a beautiful golden brown color. Cool and enjoy as an appetizer or with any kind of salad. They are wonderful with some D’Anjou pears sliced thinly on top as well. Makes about 28 crackers.
One of the most vivid memories I have of visiting Greece as a teenager is the amazing food. Everything tasted wonderful and different from foods that I was used to at that time. I loved the pastries, the meats and the delicate flavors. It’s during that trip that I began a serious love affair with Spanakopita, a crispy, delicate and delicious Spinach Pie. I seriously could eat huge quantities of Spanakopita. Every year in September, my city has a big Greek Festival. I try to go annually to load up on Greek delicacies that I don’t have time to make. For years I used to pig out on Spanakopita at the festival, when finally a few years ago I got smart. I decided that I’d asked all of my Greek friends to give me their very best versions of Spanakopita recipes so I could try them all. My friends were very helpful and passed on several recipes and over the last several years I’ve combined the things I liked from all of them to come up with this current recipe. Some families like to make Spanakopita in a large pan and cut them into squares, while others prefer to make them into triangle shapes. I love the versatility of the triangle shape since it’s so portable and because I can freeze them and bake them up individually (or a whole bunch) whenever I have a craving!
Here’s the recipe:
Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles
1 box Fillo Dough
2 pounds frozen chopped Spinach (you can use fresh but in this recipe there is very little difference)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil (I like to use fresh basil)
1 tsp dill
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (you can use dry thyme)
1 tsp kosher salt
5 stalks of Scallions
7 oz crumbled Feta
1/2 cup Ricotta
1/2 cup Cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter
4 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Defrost Spinach and squeeze out all excess water and set aside. In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute onions, scallions, garlic, salt and herbs. After onions are tender, add Spinach to the mixture and stir fry for a few minutes. Take off heat and pour it into a large bowl. Add eggs, cheeses and lemon juice to the Spinach mixture. Stir to mix well.
Take out Fillo dough from package and put them on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out. Melt 3 sticks of butter in a microwave safe bowl and get a pastry brush. Place a piece of Fillo dough on a large cutting board and brush it with melted butter, working quickly so the fillo doesn’t dry out, place another sheet on top and brush that with butter as well. Repeat with three sheets of Fillo. Using a pizza cutter, cut three equal long strips on the Fillo. Place a large 1 1/2 tablespoon of spinach filling on the top of one of the strips and fold it at an angle so it forms a triangle. Keep folding the triangle onto itself until all the filling is enclosed in a triangular shape. Place it on a cookie sheet and brush the completed triangle with melted butter. Repeat the procedure withe the other two strips. Continue making triangles with three sheets of buttered Fillo at a time. Should yield about 42-46 individual Spanakopitas. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Serve warm.