Chickpea and Potato Samosas with Cilantro Tamarind Sauce
I feed my friends leftovers. Let it be known. I feel no shame for this fact, and given half a chance I would do it again. In fact, I can almost guarantee that I’ll do it again. This shouldn’t surprise you from somebody who turns leftover Thanksgiving into both addictive appetizers and random desserts. Nope. This is just one more iteration on the theme that I lead a secret life as a garbage riffling hobo with a pet magpie for her only company. At least, I’m certain that I would be a bird petting hobo if it wasn’t for the fact that I have a serious aversion to most birds (particularly poopy birds with uncompromised aim). The hobo thing though, that’s all true.
I hate to throw things out. It doesn’t matter what it is, I’ll find a reason that it should stay in my house/garage/bathroom/fridge…you name it. That broken lamp where you have to jiggle the cord every 5 seconds to keep it lit? Totally not garbage, I just haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet. The 75 baby food containers in a secret garbage bag that Mike doesn’t know about (or rather, didn’t know about)? They totally have a purpose. I’m just saving them for when I eventually crack and quit my job to make jewelery out of paper clips and human hair to sell on Etsy. “This jar is for the PINK paper clips! This jar is for the red-heads!!” Believe me, it’s only a matter of time.
Back to the point, because I’m sure that I have a point in here somewhere if I just dig deep enough. Oh yes, the leftovers! We ate a Moroccan spiced tenderloin with honeyed shiraz sauce last week, with a healthy mound of garam masala mashed potatoes to soak up all the delightful juices. The tenderloin served about 4, but the potatoes served about 8. That wasn’t a mistake. Yes, we’re spud-buds over here, but whenever I make mashed potatoes I always aim to have twice as much as I need…..and after dinner I’m usually lucky if 1/3 of that remains. I love mashed potatoes, but one of the things that I love MORE than mashed potatoes is leftover mashpots. Potato scones? Well, certainly! Soup too thin? I know exactly what to do about that. Ground beef was on sale last week? Move over, sister. This shepherd wants a pie. I am of the humble opinion that leftover mashed potatoes may not stop a war, but at least both sides will pause for dinner.
When I started writing this recipe up for you, I almost called it a “Pub Night”. After all, when I think of pub-grub the first things that come to mind are wings, nachos, and various types of deep fried cheese products. However, over time the 90’s pub fare of breaded mushroom caps and potato skins has had to shove-a-bum for deep fried olives and goat cheese quesadillas. Shrimp cocktail became fire cracker shrimp, and garlic bread with cheese cozied up on the menu beside crabby deep fried wontons and spicy samosas. Finally, international flair is not just limited to questionable curries. There’s questionable finger foods as well. Wheeeee!
Despite the apparent gentrification of our local dives, however, it occurred to me that just because Earl The Squirrel (note: I know not one, not two, but THREE fellows named “Earl The Squirrel” who live in our community. Every now and then I think it’s time to move) is dining on crab cakes with a tarragon-saffron aioli before crushing a can of Busch beer in his armpit, that’s not really what pub night is all about for me. Ergo, despite the fact that samosas are now common bar food, and despite the fact that I’ve pulled a Tina with an appetizer that is baked rather than fried but still fills that void, I just didn’t feel right calling this pub food. Instead, it’s party food…particularly because where the samosas go the party will follow.
Chickpea and Potato Samosas with Cilantro Tamarind Sauce
Makes appx 20-24
Chickpea and Potato Samosas
- 2 cups garam masala mashed potatoes *
- 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1″ chunk ginger
- 1 tbsp fennel seed
- 1.5 tsp cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
- 1.5 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional) **
- 2-3 green chilis***
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 package prepared phyllo dough (at least 16 – 20 sheets), thawed in the refrigerator
- olive oil to brush
Cilantro Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Makes appx 3/4 cup
- 1/2″ chunk ginger
- 1 fat lime (1/2 tsp zest + juice of whole)
- 3/4 cup tamarind syrup ****
- 1 tbsp dark soya sauce
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
* If you didn’t make our garam masala mashed potatoes, which would mean that you don’t have leftover garam masala mashed potatoes, feel free to use your regular leftover mashed. Add 1.5 tsp of garam masala to the mixture at the same time that you add the curry powder, and unless you’re using garlic mashed potatoes you’ll also want to add 1 clove of minced garlic to the filling.
** I like spicy samosas. If you don’t, omit the red pepper flakes and be sure to pull the seeds and ribs out of your chilis.
*** Green chilis, depending on where they’re from (because many types of finger peppers are sometimes simply labeled “green chili”) can vary enormously in their heat. Generally though, I find them to be much milder than other common smallish chilis like jalapeno or serrano. Serrano chili would be a great substitute, but you know what I found at my grocery store? A fat lot of nothing. I’m not kidding. I had resigned myself to the fact that if I couldn’t buy green chilis I would make do with jalapeno, and instead the only peppers were bell and hot banana peppers. My ire with the inefficacy of Loblaws’ global supply chain continues to grow. In the mean time, however, banana peppers were the best I could do. Also? They were hotter than Hell’s panties for reasons that I can’t figure out. The red pepper flakes got laid to the wayside, but only this once.
**** If you cannot find tamarind syrup you can use 1/3 cup dried tamarind pulp and pour over top of it enough boiling water to make 3/4 cup. When the liquid is just cool enough to handle, massage the tamarind pulp until it dissolves. Be sure to sift through and remove any seeds, woody or stringy bits that you come across.
A quick note – when I took the pictures, I was making these samosas for a crowd. What you see in your pan will not be quite so….filling.
Peel the garlic and ginger before mincing both fairly finely. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet set over medium heat and saute the garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes or until they’re fragrant and starting to soften. Add the fennel, cumin and fenugreek seeds, and let them fry for another minute or two until your kitchen smells like curry and the spices are just starting to pop.
Chop the tops off the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds if you want to control the heat. Finely chop the flesh into a wee tiny dice.
Add half of the chopped chili to your pan along with the tomato paste. Stir this regularly so it doesn’t dry out or burn, and let it cook for just a minute or two so that the tomato can absorb the flavors of the aromatics and spice while you tamp down the raw tomato acidity.
Dollop the mashed potatoes into your pan and break them up with a wooden spoon (I always find leftover mashed to be frightfully firm, regardless of how soft and supple they were the night before) until the mixture has mostly come together and incorporated into the other ingredients. Make sure that there are still some small chunks though, because texture is never a bad thing.
Take the mixture off the heat and add in the curry powder and the red pepper flakes if you’re looking for a bit more spice. Make sure that the new additions are mixed in well. In terms of the red pepper flakes, I find green chilis to be decidedly mild next to banana peppers, so I left them out this time. Really though, it’s at your discretion.
Let the potato mixture cool for a few minutes before adding the chickpeas (rinsed well and drained), raisins, the remaining chili peppers, and your ever-so-finely chopped cilantro. Did I mention that when you chop the cilantro you can chop it up stems and all as long as you mince it finely? No? Because you can. Waste not, want not. The stems also have a phenomenal amount of flavor, and frankly the small bits of stem just look pretty in the final mash. Or at least this is my current going theory.
Gently fold everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Unwrap your glorious phyllo dough and lay one piece flat on your work surface. Brush the pastry all over with olive oil. Lay a second piece on top and brush this with olive oil as well. As you work, be sure to keep the rest of your phyllo sheets tucked quietly under a damp (not wet!) tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
You know, this is a fairly easy recipe, right? Not too many steps, not too much to do. But the one thing that I struggle with, always and without fail, is lining up the G.D. second phyllo sheet on top of the first. It drives me bonkers, and reminds me of the one summer that I spent housekeeping at a resort where every time I went to put clean top sheets on the queen sized mattresses I would miss and end up with a tragic tail down one side. This, of course, would then be tucked in with the hopes that nobody would notice when they went to bed and found themselves shivering around 3 am. If you were ever short-sheeted in Muskoka during the summer of 1998 it was probably my fault. True confession.
Use a sharp non-serrated knife to slice the phyllo vertically in half and then into quarters. You should have 4 long strips in front of you. Place a moderate mound of stuffing (about 1.5 – 2 tbsp) at the bottom of each one. Take the bottom right corner and fold it up and to the right so that you have a little triangle tip with a flat left side. Fold this straight up again so that your triangle is sitting with a flat bottom edge. Continue your folding in this way, always turning across the seam of the phyllo (left and up! And right and up! It’s like a phyllo aerobics class) until you reach the end of the strip and you have a small triangular parcel. Moisten the lip of the last flap with a bit of oil and press it down to seal.
Liberally brush the parcels all over with a bit more olive oil and set them on parchment paper in a single layer until you’re ready for the bake.
If you wanted to make the samosas in advance you can lay them flat in a freezer bag, making sure to keep a single layer to minimize sticking. Press or suck as much of the air out of the bag as you can before sealing it, and they’ll keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Around the holidays I rely heavily on freezer-fare such as this for impromptu guests or a quick appetizer when I’m feeling frenzied.
To make the sauce you want to grate or very finely mince the ginger until it’s pulpy. Add in the fresh lime zest and squeeze the juice of the whole fruit into your bowl. Pour in the tamarind syrup (or reconstituted tamarind paste) and soya sauce. It looks rather cloudy and mutinous, doesn’t it? Oddly enough, I find that charming.
Finely chop the cilantro and whisk everything together into a syrupy sauce. That’s it for the dip!
To cook the samosas, preheat your oven to 400ºF with your racks roughly in the center. Lay the samosas in a single layer on baking sheets covered in parchment paper, being careful to make sure that they don’t touch. Bake the samosas for 22-25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown all over and flaky looking around the seams. Serve the cilantro tamarind sauce on the side for people because that’s good dippage (technical term, of course).
The samosas will puff up in the oven, and if your heavy handed generosity with the stuffing spills out a bit, well, so be it. These are the little things that add intrigue, right? That little bubbling burst of brightly hued filling is exactly what makes me want to stuff one in my mouth. Okay, maybe two. To start.
Flaky phyllo around a fluffy filling of savory and sweet, with a creeping spice that kicks you in the kneecap when you least expect it…..that’s pretty much exactly what I look for in a samosa. The tangy tamarind sauce has just enough sweetness to echo the raisins in the filling and make you almost forget that smoke is shooting out your nostrils, but not quite. Aaaah, leftovers just keep getting better with age.