Sunday, July 27, 2008

The story of samoosas

During every trip to South Africa, whilst visiting my dad's extended family, my absolute favourite thing to eat was samoosas (the South African version of what most people call samosas). These savoury concoctions were so special to me, as they seemed way too complicated to attempt making myself, and I couldn't seem to find anything remotely similar to them anywhere in North America (or so I thought at the time).

The samoosas my family made were quite different from what you get at Indian restaurants in North America. Instead of being large and doughy and filled with potatoes and peas, the ones I loved were small triangles with a paper thin crispy crust (almost like phyllo dough), filled with ground chicken and spices, and browned to perfection. As you can imagine, these little morsels are dangerous - being so small, crunchy and tasty, one tends to eat much more than would be suitably appropriate or necessary.

As I said earlier, our family thought that these samoosas were only available from my grandmother's or my aunt's kitchen in South Africa, until my dad found out that an old family friend of his, Farida Baba, was living in Toronto, and cooking and selling traditional South African Indian food out of her home. We'd finally found a new supplier!!! So, ever since that time, on my mom's annual trip to Toronto, she would buy and bring home frozen samoosas by the dozen, and we would fry them up on special occasions.

This year, while in Toronto for my cousin's wedding, my mom ordered a bunch and gave me a dozen to bring back to Vancouver. And that's what we had for dinner last Wednesday. Of course, samoosas do not make a complete meal, so I decided to supplement them with a simple eggplant curry from Vij's, as well as a homemade mango salad. Oh, and we dipped our samoosas in a lovely tamarind chutney purchased from Capers.

Eggplant, tomato and green onion curry
8 stalks green onions
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 eggplant, skin on, in 1-inch cubes
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup canola oil

- Chop white parts of green onions in 1/4 inch rounds, discard hollow green parts, chop remaining green parts into 3/4 inch rounds (apparently since they have different flavours and cooking times).
- Combine yogurt, chili powder, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Add eggplant, tomatoes, and onions and stir well to coat.
- Heat oil on medium heat, pour curry into pan and stir well. Saute for about 3 mins, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for about 10 mins.

I found this curry to be quite spicy, so I'd reduce the amount of chili powder and cayenne in future.

Mango salad
2 large mangoes (still a little firm)
1/4 small red onion
2-3 small fresh green chilies
juice of two limes
sea salt

- Julienne mangoes into long thin strips (it helps if the mangoes are a little firm)
- Slice red onion very thinly (as thin as possible, or else the flavour will be too intense)
- Deseed and finely chop the green chilies
- Combine mangoes, red onion, and chilies in a bowl. Add lime juice and a sprinking of sea salt. Serve!

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

I'm pleased to introduce you to... my new windowsill herb garden

I have a new love. Well, four actually. They're called Basil, Lemon Basil, Oregano-thyme, and just plain Thyme. And they're living on my windowsill. How cool is that! I'm finally getting better at taking care of plants (thanks for the watering lesson Tessa!) and my reward is experiencing how amazing it is to eat something that was growing, alive only minutes ago. Here's what I've made so far:

  1. Grilled cheese sandwich with sweet basil (above) – made with Kashkeval sheep cheese and my new favourite white bread from the Translyvanian bakery on Davie.
  2. Tuna sandwiches with oregano-thyme – “Hey baby, I made you a tuna sandwich for your lunch. The herbs in there are fresh from our garden...” Ooooh, I've never been able to say that before!
  3. Fried egg sandwich with roasted red pepper strips and chopped sweet basil. I love fried egg sandwiches. They were my favourite simple no-time not much in the fridge dinner from my childhood and I still pull them out every once and a while for the same reasons. With good white bread and plenty of mayo, mmmmmm.
  4. And, in process as we speak... lemon basil soy marinated tofu. I'm going to use the marinade as a sauce for a stir fry with red peppers and these incredibly cute baby zucchinis I bought this afternoon, and toss it all with soba noodles. Since I haven't actually cooked it yet I can't really report on the lemon basil's performance here. But I did eat several pieces tossed with the marinade, since I can never keep myself from snacking on raw tofu, and it was awesome. By itself the lemon basil tastes like a cross between lemonbalm and basil – very lemony but with nice peppery undertones. Combined with soy, lime, ginger, garlic, palm sugar, and sambal chili paste in the marinade, I think it's going to be perfect.

And, I have to confess that I wasn't satisfied with just four delicious herb-y plants to love – today they were joined by mint, sage, and dill on the windowsill. Our living room has never been so pretty. And now I can make anything I want all summer long.

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