Mattar Paneer Samosa
In the days before TV, the only time we saw the official Indian flag hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort was in the Newsreel that was shown in the movies. But we never missed these grandiose events, for we had celebrations in every nook and corner of the community around us.
Every galli, nukkad, naka, chawl, colony, roundabout and chowrasta had enthusiastic patriots – some of them mere “chanda” gathering charlatans- organising flag hoisting ceremonies for denizens who gathered in the early hours of the 15th of August by the dozens.
Buntings would be strung along electricity lines. A temporary dais would be erected for parochial politicians or corrupt corporators to make patriotic speeches, not always insincere, and unfurl the tricolor on makeshift flagpoles.
All the while, loud speakers with large horns would blare Aao Bachcho Tumhein Dikhayen and De Dee Hame Azaadi Bina Khadag Bina Dhaal by the Kavi Pradeep or Lata Mangeshkar soulfully singing his Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon…and who could forget Iqbal’s Sarey Jahan Sey Accha Hindustan Hamara…
What I also remember, and not merely because I am very hungry at the time of posting this, is the little oil stained paper packets of samosas and laddus that were distributed to all.
The laddus were not a novelty, but the samosas were certainly a treat.
Our strict home-rules about establishing the origins of a samosa (and yes, a cutlet too) before pronouncing it fit for consumption were thrown to the wind. “Don’t tell me if your tummies go bad!” was a caution we collared, even at the risk of the insufferable but inexorable “I told you so!”
Hot, freshly fried samosas were ok we were told– but you could never be sure as to how long the filling had been exposed to the elements. There were far too many examples of how eating samosas on display, in storage or in transit at under the requisite 60 C or above the 5 C (BTW - the temp range is recent gyan) had ruined many a fun outing.
As my interest in cooking developed, I realised all this could be avoided if we made samosas at home.
The writing on the wall was always clear.
When I finally got down to making samosas at home, it was actually so liberating not be at the mercy of suspect stuffing of unknown origin and antiquity… So emancipating not to be ambushed at first bite by a filling at pungency levels that would scorch any Scoville scales… So releasing not to fear rancid re-used oil…
Matar Paneer Samosa
For the pastry
250 gm plain flour
2-3 tbsp ghee
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon ajwain
Water to knead the dough
Oil for frying
In a bowl, sift the flour and salt. Then add the ghee and rub it into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the ajwain and gradually add the water to make a smooth, firm but pliable dough. Cover with cling film and set aside for an hour.
For the stuffing
2 tbsp oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
½ tsp garlic
½ tsp ginger
1-2 green chillies, chopped fine
1 cup grated paneer
1 cup frozen baby peas
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled and mashed
1 tbsp chopped cashew nuts
½ tsp amchur powder or lemon juice
½ teaspoon coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds followed by the onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies and cashew nuts and sauté well.
Add the paneer, peas, and sauté further. Then add the coriander powder, amchur powder, chopped coriander leaves and garam masala. Add the mashed potato for binding and mix well. Cover and cook on a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Divide dough into equal parts. Make a ball out of each part and roll it into discs like a poori. Cut each disc in half. Fold each semi-circle in a triangle and prop it open like a cone and fill it with a spoonful of the matar-paneer mixture. Fold the edges over run a finger dipped in water along the edges to seal them. Prop the prepared samosas in a row.
Heat oil in a kadai or pan and fry the samosas on medium heat till golden and crisp. Drain them onto kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Serve hot with chutneys like mint and tamarind-date.