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Indian Samosas: a turnover by any name is always a tasty treat

Almost every ethnic region has its version of the turnover. They are called empanadas in Spanish speaking countries; in the Ukraine, they're known as pyrizhkys; Greece has its spanakopitas; and Texans - many of whom believe they live in a "whole 'nuther country" - have their chilipanzingas. (scroll down for rest of article)


Turnovers by any name are people-pleasers. They can be held in one hand and eaten on the go; they can be made ahead of time, cooked, and frozen; they're popular as appetizers, but can be consumed any time of day. Best of all, meat-lovers, vegetarians, and sweet-aholics love them. Whether you are craving fruit pies, meat pastries, or vegetable pockets, the turnover is your answer.

The samosas of East Indian origin are among my favorite ethnic foods. I like them baked or fried; with meat or without.

Meat filling:
½ lb. lean ground beef (or lamb)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 whole cardamom pods
2 jalapeno peppers, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Vegetable filling:
Above ingredients except meat
2 medium potatoes, cubed
½ half cup green peas
½ cup water

Pastry:
1 cup all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
Pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons water

To prepare meat filling:
Brown meat and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil and add cardamom pods and cumin seeds. Stir for about three minutes. Add onions and saute. Add remaining filler ingredients, including beef, and continue stirring on low heat for another ten minutes. Let cool.

To prepare vegetable filling:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil and add cardamom pods and cumin seeds. Cook for about three minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain off any remaining water and let cool.

To prepare pastry:
Sift flour and salt. Add oil or butter. Mix with a fork. Begin adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead until the dough is stiff; not crumbly and not too fragile. Put dough in oiled plastic bag and let sit for about 30 minutes. (You can also put it in the refrigerator for a longer time, but return to room temperature before rolling.)
Turn dough out on floured surface and roll out to about a ¼-inch thickness. Cut dough into 3-inch (appetizer size) or 6-inch circles. Cut the circles in half and fold over again to make a cone shape. Press the edges together - leaving the top end open - with fork tines and a touch of water. Open the pouch and place a small amount of filling inside. Seal the top closed with fork and water.

Deep fry at 350 degrees until golden brown OR bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes approximately 12 appetizer-sized servings.

Tips & Tricks:

I have found that baked turnovers freeze better than fried. They do not require thawing before re-heating.

The basic turnover is not packed full. Do not overfill, as the ingredients may bubble out of the dough during cooking.

Turnovers taste best warm, not hot. If served too hot, the filling may burn your mouth.

You can make dough from scratch or use purchased pastry dough as a shortcut.

Turnovers are shaped and folded differently according to region.

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