If you’ve ever eaten Indian food you’ve almost certainly tried samosas. Those wonderful fried flaky pastries filled with spicy vegetables or meat accompanied with hot or cooling dipping sauces.
Despite the simplicity inherent to a samosa – pastry + filling, they seem to be one of those things that seem too hard to make from scratch. That couldn’t be further from the truth, they really are deceptively simple.
Even if you’ve never made pastry from scratch before. Or don’t consider yourself much of a baker. Trust me, they really are easy!
First off, let’s start with the ingredients:
- Solid fat, chilled and cubed
- Plain flour
- Iced water
Pretty simple right?
You can use any old plain flour for this recipe, personally I went with wholemeal because I try to choose wholegrains wherever possible and I quite enjoy the flavour of wholemeal pastry. Use whichever you prefer or have available.
Combine the dry ingredients; flour and salt, first.
The key to a great samosa is all in the crust. The texture of the crisp flaky crust is achieved by rubbing solid fat into the flour. Traditionally ghee is used, however I’ve gone with butter and you should feel free to do the same if that’s what you’ve got to hand.
The process for rubbing the flour is to scoop some fat and flour with one hand, then using the other hand to rub in a circular motion against it. Use your whole hand for this process. It’s a bit like warming your hands against a fire, but creating small circles instead while continuing to scoop up flour and butter. This is a really important step as it coats each the flour in fat which discourages the formation of gluten creating the flakiness in the crust.
Rub gently. You want to create a dry crumbly mix rather than a hard compact mix. Gentle hands will help ensure the fat is distributed evenly which will result in a nice even crust.
You might recognise this as the first step in creating shortcrust pastry and you’d be right. However samosa pastry departs from shortcrust pastry in that it is briefly kneaded for 1-2 minutes. The purpose of kneading is to allow the partial formation of gluten. This creates a more elastic pastry which can stand up to the rigor of filling and won’t crack during baking or frying.
Once you’re satisfied with the crumbly dry consistency add the iced water slowly. The amount of water you need will depend on the humidity and the flour you’re using (wholemeal will require slightly more water than white flour) and you don’t want a dough that’s too wet. You should add enough water so the ingredients just hold together. Tip onto a floured bench and start kneading. Dipping your hands in the iced water and gradually kneading in more liquid if needed.
Knead the dough by push down and away using the heel of your hand, then folding the dough on top of itself and repeat. Don’t knead for any longer than 2 minutes. Shape into a ball and wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Note: The dough can stored in the fridge for 5 days or frozen for longer at this point. Just make sure you defrost the dough in the fridge before bringing to room temperature.
Now comes the fun part, shaping and filling the samosas!
Definitely a good time to get the whole house (or a bunch friends) involved otherwise you’ll be there a while.
How to make samosas: Step by step tutorial
Step 1: Shape into balls
Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and begin to shape the dough into small balls. The easiest way to do this is by rolling the dough out into a log and cut into equal sections so you can work with smaller pieces.
Each dough ball should be slightly smaller than the size of a ping pong ball. If you’ve got kitchen scales, use them to weigh each ball so you know they are equal. Mine were about 25 gm each and I got 42 balls in total out of the recipe.
The size of the balls will determine the thickness of the dough and the size of the samosa. I prefer a nice thin crispy pastry with lots of filling, so mine are quite small. This also makes each samosa a bit healthier!
From this point you can put the balls back in the fridge until you are ready to work with them.
Step 2: Flatten each ball
Roll the ball in your hands to warm the dough slightly. This will make the dough more malleable and easier to work with. It will also help prevent it from cracking as you roll it out.
Tip: Don’t let your dough dry out – keep the balls you aren’t working with covered with a tea towel or cling wrap to prevent them from drying out.
Step 3: Roll out your samosa pastry balls
Gently use a rolling pin to flatten and roll out each dough ball. Use even pressure and work from the centre of the dough rolling outwards away from your body. Make sure the flip the dough regularly ensuring a smooth even result on both sides.
Tip: Non-stick rolling – Roll the pastry onto baking paper on a hard surface to prevent it from sticking to your bench.
The trick for even thickness and a nice circular shape is to keep rotating the dough in a clockwise direction so that you are always rolling from the centre.
You should end up with a a nice even circle that’s about 1-2 mm thick and 15cm in diameter. Don’t sweat it if you have some uneven edges, these will be tucked away neatly by the time you finish. If you’ve got a crew helping then you can turn this into a production line and have each person in charge of a step. Make sure to cover the pastry rounds and separate them with baking paper if you aren’t filling them immediately.
Step 4: Slice in half
Slice the circle in half with a sharp knife
Step 5: Shaping your samosa pastry
Take one half of the circle and wet one half the straight edge with a little water. Fold the straight edges towards the centre and join by overlapping one side over the wet side, pressing to seal. Try to only overlap the edges by about 5mm and use your fingers to press and join the pastry.
Work slowly from the point at the centre gradually joining the pastry as you work your way up to form a cone shape.
Tip: Pinch seams tightly – Make sure the point of the cone is completely sealed. This is particularly important if you are frying the samosas as oil can seep in, leaving you with greasy filling. Yuck!
Step 6: Handling your cone
The cone should fit easily into your hand. Hold it gently about two thirds of the way to maintain the shape as you fill.
Imagine you are holding a glass and handle the cone very gently so not to crush it!
Step 7: Fill your samosa pastry
Firstly make sure your filling has cooled completely before filling the samosas. A filling that is too hot will melt the fat in the dough prematurely, making the crust leaden … the opposite of the crispy and flaky pastry we’re after!
Fill one teaspoon at a time, gently pressing down on the filling to ensure there aren’t any air gaps. Your pastry should be nice and flexible and will be able to take a little pressure without breaking.
Tip: Don’t overfill your samosa. 2-3 heaped teaspoons filling per samosa should be about right. If you have too much filling the pastry may break, especially as you try to close the samosa. With too little filling it will taste too doughy and the cone shape will collapse.
Step 8: Getting ready to close
Fill the samosa leaving about 1 cm at the top of the samosa. Dip your finger in water and wet the inside edge of the samosa all the way around the cone.
Step 9: Close your samosa
Working from one side, gently press the wet edges of pastry together. Press the edges as close the to filling as possible pushing any air around the filling out the remaining opening.
Continuing pressing the edges until reach the other side, pushing the last of the air out the gap before closing completely.
Step 10: Finish the edges
The final step is to fold the closed seam over on itself. This helps ensure the samosa is completely sealed and creates an attractive edge.
Tip: Make ahead – Once the samosas are filled you can keep them in the covered in the fridge for a day or freeze them for longer. Just make sure you let them thaw before baking or frying.
Now you’re ready for baking and shortly after, eating!