Although we are always a little sad after daylight savings time, as the skies darken earlier and earlier each evening, there’s some solace in knowing that we’re also embarking on the season of festivals of light. Although Hanukkah and Christmas are the two best known and most widely celebrated of these in the U.S., Diwali is India’s biggest holiday and is celebrated by millions of people of Sikh, Hindu and Jain faiths all over the world.
The name Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, which means “rows of lighted lamps” and people do indeed set up rows of small oil lamps as part of their celebration. Fireworks are a noisier and more public but equally traditional way to celebrate light at Diwali. There is also a metaphorical resonance to the festival, which marks the triumph of spiritual light over darkness, and good over evil: more thoughts to cheer us up as we slowly lose hours of daylight over the next six weeks!
Sweets are the foods most often associated with Diwali, much like Christmas cookies or Hanukkah doughnuts: traditional confections are crafted from condensed milk, coconut, nuts and warm spices such as cardamom. But there are also savory treats for the times when you need to feed more than your sweet tooth. This is the year you should learn how to make samosas, the rustic fried pastry that can be stuffed with meat, cheese or even vegan fillings. Pop into your local Indian grocery or the global food aisle at your local supermarket for some chutney–our favorites are tamarind and coriander–and you’ll have a dish that will delight and impress everyone.
Potato & Pea Samosas
For the dough:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup warm water
For the filling:
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and coarsely mashed
- 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Cilantro and/or tamarind chutney for serving.
To make the dough:
Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Add oil, using your hands rub the oil into the flour until crumbs form. Add water and knead until dough is firm, smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside while you make the filling.
To make the filling:
Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds and fry until they begin to pop. Next add the onion and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add the potatoes, the dry spices and the lemon juice and combine over medium low heat. Add peas and cilantro and stir until the mixture is heated through. Remove from heat.
Filling the samosas:
Place dough on a lightly floured surface. One at a time, roll a 3-inch ball of dough between your palms. Roll it out into a circle about 6 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch thick. Cut the circle of dough in half. Create a cone-shape with the dough, joining the straight edge of the pastry. Seal with a little water.
Place about a tbsp of filling into the cone, filling it about ¾ of the way. Now brush the top edge of the dough with a little water and pinch together the top to seal the samosa. Place the finished samosa on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until all of the dough is used up.
Frying the samosas:
Heat 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy pan. Test that the oil is hot enough by dipping a corner of the samosa into the oil. If if bubbles, your oil is ready. Working in batches, fry the samosas over medium heat until they are golden brown on both sides, 8-10 minutes. Flip half way through. Carefully remove samosas from the pan with tongs and let them cool slightly on a rack or paper towel-lined plate. Serve them hot or at room temperature with chutney on the side.
Makes about 20 samosas.