Potatoes and Peas Samosas

Let me tell you... making samosas from scratch... is an incredibly frustrating and rewarding experience. When I first saw this recipe for Potatoes and Peas Samosas from Playful Cooking, I thought, "well that doesn't sound so bad." I've made empanadas and dumplings before, how bad can it be? 

Three attempts later and I am still baffled. 

The filling is not the issue; that part is actually easy. We used the filling from the Picky Eater Blog because it sounded more like our kind of party with the addition of red onion and fresh ginger. We like our samosas to be bold. Mike made the filling the first time and were both eating it by the spoonful from the bowl. Always a good sign! Adjust accordingly to the amount of dough you're making and flavor to your spice level.

The dough takes patience. It can be stiff so keep adding water until it's manageable. We had a small adventure locating "carom seeds" and found them at an international market. There are plenty of recipes that do not incorporate the seeds into the dough but I surprisingly enjoyed the flavor.  They smell like thyme and give a slight edge to the flavor similar to anise. 

Ensuring that the samosas hold their form while frying is the issue. A big issue. 

During round one, I let the dough rest for way too long and it became incredibly tough and elastic. Most of the samosas fell apart in the oil which was deserved. Only a handful survived and our Nepali friends kindly raved about them. Their words of encouragement fueled my determination.

The second round is the one pictured in this post. I let the dough rest the exact amount of time and was not shy about adding water. Following Playful Cooking's directions, the oil started at room temperature.  I sealed the seams meticulously with a lil extra water and pinched, pinched, pinched! I was generous with the overlap of the dough and didn't heat the oil until after the samosas were added. 

As you can see, it turned out quite lovely! Perfect, crispy samosas. My work here is done!

Not so fast, young grasshopper. The third time I made these, my ego got checked. I followed the directions to the letter and did exactly what I had done the time prior. Over half of them opened while frying thus ruining the filling and oil. What a mess! How is this possible!? There's nothing worse than watching the oil bubbles seep into the seams of the dough and gently, relentlessly push them apart. Gurus of the Samosa world, I implore you... tell me what I keep doing wrong to incur the wrath of the evil vegetable oil? 

Maybe next time, I will use a different recipe for the dough to see if there's a difference. Another option is to bake them which is healthier... and I'm sure less stressful. Until the next episode!

For the tasty combination that is "Potatoes and Peas Samosas," check out the dough and methodology from Playful Cooking and the filling from Picky Eater Blog.

Basic Hummus

There are very few places that serve hummus that I genuinely enjoy. Every time the hubby and I have bought it from the grocery store, we lived to regret it. It's hard to pin point what exactly is so unappealing; sometimes there's an unpleasant after taste... other times the vendor's attempt to "jazz" it up backfires.

I decided to take a stab at making it from scratch and was surprised by the simplicity of the ingredients and process. Chickpeas. Lemon juice. Tahini. Pinch of salt. Garlic. Zoom zoom zoom in the food processor. 

Creamy, dreamy hummus heaven.

The biggest debate that I have seen about hummus is the chickpea: is there a difference between canned and dried? It's a divided subject. Some swear there's none; others feverishly implore the use of dried beans. 

In my tiny brain, it only made sense that using the dried variety would optimize freshness. Granted, it requires a little more planning because the peas have to soak for several hours. Heck, I left them soaking for two nights out of negligence (woops). In the interest of quality, it's worth using dried beans.

The best part of making your own hummus is you're in control. This recipe truly is the most basic recipe possible and is the perfect canvas for modifications. Like it thick? Go easy on the water. Love garlic? Throw a few more cloves in there - you've earned it. Surprisingly, the second time that I made it, the hubby actually liked not having all the chickpeas totally crushed because it added texture. 

Personally... my indulgences included an extra splash of olive oil and lemon juice followed by a touch of smokey paprika on top. Serve with pita chips as an appetizer at a party, with cucumbers as a healthy snack, or as the base of a wrap/shwarma

For this recipe and several others, purchase, "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It's an awesome book! It's the source for sinful Chocolate Krantz Cake and an incredible Salmon with Chraimeh Sauce. If your curiosity stops at the hummus, you can find the recipe here

Mariscada { Seafood }

My mother is a magician in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure she was born wielding a colher de pau (wooden spoon) or, as we lovingly knew it as children, "o colher POW!" The pow part was aimed at your bottom but we did a good job of staying away from those types of situations. Ahem!

Like I was saying, she's an amazing cook thanks to a lifetime of practice. She's the second eldest daughter from a family of ten surviving children. That's a lot of responsibility and hungry mouths to help feed. They didn't grow up eating anything fancy on the farm in Portugal - mostly rice, beans, bread, and boiled vegetables. A lot of things that I take for granted at the grocery store had to be grown or butchered. She can peel a potato in 20 seconds with a blade. Bad @$$.

It wasn't until she married and things settled down that she began cooking the more iconic meals of her country, like carne de porco à Alentejana, bolos bacalhau, and paella.  I was lucky enough to be raised enjoying these dishes for special occasions and holidays. If there was shrimp in the fridge, you knew people were coming over. Thanks mom!

That being said, this post centers around my brother's birthday! Mom and I pulled out all the stops with mariscada (mix of seafood- what did I say about that shrimp!) and her version of fried chicken. I was able to find some frozen pasteis de nata at the European Foods Import store and whipped up a tasty Rum-Kissed Banana Butterscotch Cream Tart.

In this post, I'm going to focus on the mariscada but don't sleep on the chicken- Mike's infatuated with mom's recipe. The bird is seasoned with salt, red pepper, and black pepper, coated in flour, dipped in egg, then coated tempura. Fry that bad boy slow and slow. That's it. It's really simple and keeps the meat tender and juicy. 

In this version of mariscada, we kept the rice and seafood separate because it's not paella or arroz con marisco. In those recipes, the rice is cooked with the water used to boil the clams and mussels then everything is mixed together in one big pot. I prefer keeping the seafood separate because it's nice to control the ratio. Plus, it's awesome to grab a big hunk of bread and scoop up all of the olive oil at the bottom of the pot. 

The following are general guidelines as cooking is less of a science and more of a "pinch here" and a "dash there" in our house. 

serves 4

Cooked long-grain rice of your choosing, enough to serve 4
2 (5 ounce each) lobster tails, shell on
1 pound large shrimp
1 pound sea scallops
olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, add more if you like it hot
sea salt
1-2 bay leaves
pinch of yellow saffron (optional)
1/2 cup chicken bouillon cube mix preferably, but chicken broth could work (optional)

Per the directions for the rice of your choosing, make the rice first since it takes the longest to cook. 

Make the sofrtio: coat the bottom of a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven in olive oil on medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion until it beings to very lightly brown, then add the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the garlic starts to golden. 

Add 1/4 cup water. Split each lobster tail in half and place with the meat-side down into the olive oil and cook through, 4-5 minutes. You'll know it's done when the meat turns white and the shell turns a vibrant shade of red (see the last photo of this post as a reference). 

Add the shrimp and sea scallops. Season with white pepper, about 1/2 a teaspoon. Cook evenly so that both side of the shrimp are a nice shade of pink. Add a pinch of saffron if you crave that beautiful yellow color; season with salt to your liking.

If you want the base to be more saucy, heat enough water to cook a chicken boullion cube. Pour 1/2 cup to the seafood mix as a starting point. Don't add too much or it's going to become a bowl of soup!

Serve with rice, crispy bread, and salad.