This is the story of how a typo turned into an entree. In Whatsapp group of fellow moms, coordinating the dishes of a potluck, someone offered up a Samoa cake. Misreading that for “Samosa Cake” many of the moms jumped at the prospect: “Samosa cake?! What’s a Samosa Cake?! I want to try it!!”. After clarifying the mix up, some ideas were thrown around as to what a samosa cake would look like. I immediately thought of layers of phyllo dough stacked with a samosa meat mixture, baked and cut in slices. When I looked up for recipes that would meet these requirements, I pulled together elements from a Borek recipe (Turkish layered meat pastry), an Egyptian meat pie, and the filling from a Yemeni Samboosa. There are cubanelle or italian frying peppers here for flavor, often seen in Turkish recipes. There’s tomato paste from the samboosa recipe, an ingredient that is necessary for any red meat dish, in my humble opinion. And the whole layering and baking technique pulls from Egyptian meat pie recipe.
Lentil and Bulgur Kofte
My heart is hurting. The world is burning. There is no where I can go, or send my family members, that feels safe from natural disaster, disease or rampant violence. Perhaps this is the way it’s always been – just now we are hyper aware because we are hyper connected. The natural disaster stuff is not new. Climate change is. And as a Bangladeshi American, I worry about the effects of glacial melting for a sea-level country like Bangladesh. We already have climate refugees.
Disease is certainly not new (hello plague, small pox, measles and the like). But Planetary Health is. The deterioration of our forests and natural resources that previously acted as a barrier from infectious diseases rampant inside the wilderness.
And the violence. From mass shooters to terrorists to drone strikes. We’ve been killing one another since Cain and Abel. Yet for all our progress, our education, we can’t seem to teach one another empathy. We can be pro-life when it comes to matters of a woman’s right to make decisions, yet when it comes to the life of someone who looks a bit different from us, we only know to act in self preservation.
What does this have to do with these vegan “meatballs”? I’m not sure, except it is a Turkish recipe. And if a certain small handed, orange hued, and even smaller brained individual had his way, contributions like this (both culinary and non-culinary), would come to a halt for a certain period of time. We cannot let fear come in the way of this country’s most powerful asset: our pluralism. We must use our propensity for innovation to tackle this challenge we’ve never faced before: an ideological war. One with no national border, rather the exploitation of the disenfranchised, the bored, the feeble minded.
A wonderful cook and long time associate, Keri Egilmez, shared this recipe with me. You may remember her from the Samboosa recipe I shared a while back. These are not meant to satisfy your cravings for dark, rich, savory meatballs. They work best as an appetizer – light and lemony and the perfect finger food. Also works well over a bed of greens as a light lunch. Afiyet olsen!
- 1 cup Red Lentils
- 1/2 cup fine bulgur
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Paste (or tomato paste)
- Juice of 1 lemon (or half if you like less sour)
- 1/3 cup of parsley, finely chopped
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes or pul biber (aleppo pepper) – optional
- Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and rinse under running water 2-3 times. Add 2.5 cups water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes or until all the water is soaked up. Add the bulgur to the pot, give it a stir, and cover until mixture is cool enough to handle.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until softened – 4 to 5 minutes. Add cumin and red pepper or tomato paste. Stir until combined then remove from heat. Add this mixture to the lentil/bulgur mixture.
- Add the lemon juice, parsley, green onion and chili flakes, if using, to the mixture. Stir until everything is combined, then pinch off golf ball sized amounts and lightly press into an oblong shaped ball. Set aside. Continue until all of the mixture is made into kofte (balls).
- Enjoy as is or wrapped in lettuce with a squeeze of lemon. Afiyet olsun!
Aloo Chop (Fried Mashed Potato Balls)
Traditional Bengali iftars are an exercise in how many different ways can we consume fried foods. Ground up lentils and herbs? FRY IT! Fresh sliced eggplant? BATTER AND FRY IT! Whole green chilis? FRY IT! Mashed potatoes? FRY. IT.
There’s been a backlash by my generation against the fried iftars of our parents’ generation:
- “We’re just doing broiled salmon and sauteed green beans for iftar.”
- “I’m doing a green smoothie for iftar.”
- “Every year I gain weight during Ramadan. No fried foods for me this year.”
Yet when we go to the inevitable iftar dawat at our parents’ or aunts’ or grandparents’, we’re still gonna pop a couple of fritters on our plate while no one’s looking. Not the whole deep fried green chilis – dear God no. I don’t know WHO that appeals to. But we can pretty unanimously agree on the Aloo Chop. Any manifestation of a fried potato is right by my books. And when filled with tiny cubes of hard boiled egg, well it becomes a whole darn meal!
I justify it by compounding it with salad. Lots of greens and veggies. And water. I read somewhere on the internets that junk food is ok, as long as you drink lots of water afterward. =)
I went with Yukon gold potatoes, as they are more waxy than Idaho. I didn’t add any butter or milk to the potatoes themselves, as I wanted them to hold their shape as well as they could while sizzling away in the hot oil.
The best part is, they freeze beautifully. Just pop them in the a ziploc before the egg wash/breading stage, and fry them up whenever you want them. These take a little bit of time to prepare, but these are the things childhood memories are made of.
- 2 lbs yukon gold potato, quartered
- 1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 tsp chaat masala*
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup minced cilantro
- 1 green chili, minced (optional)
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped small
- a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- a dash of salt
- a dash of cayenne pepper
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for frying
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to boil. Carefully lower potatoes and cook until tender: 10-12 minutes. I don’t bother peeling them. I boil them skin on, then when cool to the touch, peel back the skins like my mom used to do.
- Season the potatoes with salt, chaat masala and cumin. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Mash with a potato masher. Add scallions, cilantro (all but 1 tbsp of it) and green chili is using**. Then get in there with your hand and incorporate very well. Set aside.
- Season the diced hard boiled eggs with the remaining 1 tbsp cilantro, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Toss lightly.
- Make balls with the mashed potato mixture by grabbing a handful, rolling into a ball, pressing in to make an indent (see picture above), and fill with a tiny bit of the egg mixture. Enclose the egg mixture fully with the edges of the potato ball. Set aside on a plate or baking sheet and continue making the rest of the balls. At this point you can freeze the balls and fry them off at a later time as needed.
- Heat up oil (enough to come up 2 inches) in a small wok or saucepan to 325 to 350 degrees F. In a shallow bowl, crack eggs and beat lightly. In another shallow bowl, pour out the breadcrumbs. roll each ball in the egg, then in the bread mixture, then lower carefully into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry for 2 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oil and onto a paper towel lined plate. Serve with Sriracha or Ketchup.
*Chaat masala is a tangy/salty/spicy spice mix that can bring any dish to life. Easily available at any Indian grocery.
**I wouldn’t recommend adding the green chili unless you are a LOVER of spicy foods. I just have it listed as it is a traditional ingredient.
Samboosa, samosa. Tomato, tomahto. Either way – savory pastry stuffed with meaty goodness. A fellow homeschooling mom made this for a multicultural fair we had a few months back and it was so good I just had to recreate it. It is a traditional Omani recipe: ground beef infused with deep tomato flavor, spices, herbs and vegetables, enrobed in crispy fried pastry dough. Better than any of the samosas you’d find in Jackson Heights or any other South Asian enclave.
A long time ago, I was downright terrible at frying things. I would add things to the oil before it heated up properly. Or I wouldn’t regulate the heat carefully so after the first batch or two things would just go BAM – overly browned and out of commission. But then – then I got a candy thermometer. A wonderful little kitchen tool that helps with my caramels as much as my samosas (truth be told – this is the first time I’ve made them!).
I kind of winged it with the wrapping. I recalled some filo wrapping directions for Spanakopita ages ago and tried to apply it here. I tried cutting a single sheet in half and folding – the results were way too big. I tried thirds – still too big. Folding a sheet in half, and cutting it down the middle made the perfect size and thickness.
You will have some leftover filo left after making these. Not to fret. I am already dreaming up things to do with them. Baklava tassies? Or perhaps fill them with coconut (or nutella?!) and deep fry? I’ll keep you posted 😉
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro or parsley
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (not a heaping tbsp, not even a full tbsp, rather a scant tbsp)
- 1/2 tsp each turmeric, cumin, black pepper and cayenne/chili pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste (I needed 1 1/4tsp, just taste it to make sure it tastes really good)
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- filo sheets for wrapping
- oil for frying
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/4 cup water
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add beef, onion and garlic. Cook until meat browns, 7-8 minutes, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon. Keep scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add carrots, parsley/cilantro, tomato paste, spices and salt. Saute for 2 minutes. Add water and cover with a lid. Cook until liquid evaporates and carrots are tender.
- In a large pot, heat oil to 350 to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Take one sheet of filo, fold it in half lengthwise and cut down the middle, so you end up with two strips, two layers each. Place one tablespoon of filling on one end. Fold up into a triangle as shown above. In a bowl, mix flour and water. Brush on the final edge of the pastry to seal shut. Fry 3-4 minutes until golden.
I remember having fruit chaat for the first time at my cousin Lima Apa’s house. I was flabbergasted at how bright and flavorful a simple yogurt dressing made otherwise pretty boring fruit (green apples, red grapes). Since then, I use the dressing as a way to eat more fruits during the winter months. When the mangos are tart and the berries are lackluster. A quick toss, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the fruit disappears!
The key ingredient in this South Asian fruit salad is Chaat Masala. A tangy/savory/spicy combination of spices that includes salt, chili powder, black pepper, citric acid and green mango. On it’s own, it’s a bit too spicy for me. So a little bit of it, along with a little bit of salt and the yogurt is uh-mazing. It’s available in any South Asian grocery.
I’ve left this deconstructed since it’s not so pretty mixed up. This makes for a great appetizer if you’re hosting a party, or even as a hostess gift. Just leave some toothpicks on the side for people to pierce the fruit with.
It’s so versatile, you can alter it any which way to accommodate most dietary restrictions. Dairy allergy? Use soy yogurt. Counting calories? Substitute lowfat yogurt in the dressing (though I am a big proponent of eating full fat foods in moderation). Allergic to a specific fruit? Just leave everything in their own compartments. Cover well with plastic wrap if transporting or consuming later in the day.
- 1 cup full fat yogurt
- 3/4 tsp chaat masala (or you could use a mix of equal parts chili powder, black pepper, coriander, and cumin)
- 3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. You only need a small amount for each cup of fruit – approximately 1 tbsp per cup.