I made samosas yesterday afternoon, those wonderful, savory little bundles of pastry with a spicy potato filling. David and I have long enjoyed Indian food, but did not really make much of a quest for it until recently, when we lived in Hong Kong for a while and had many wonderful Indian meals at JoJo's in Wanchai, Causeway Bay, and Central, and at Gaylord's in Tsim Sha Tsui. (Only some of many wonderful meals in Hong Kong, where finding one is pretty much as easy as taking a few steps from one's front door!)
I used the samosa recipe posted here by Kathy of Vast Amount of Spare Time, which recipe is in turn based on one in "Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking" (I have the 1983 Barron's edition, which I think is updated in this one). Kathy adds a bit of amchur to the filling, but her version is notable for using puff pastry for wrapping the samosas, instead of the usual thin bread-like dough, and she bakes them instead of deep-frying. This really does make it a lot easier, I'm sure. (My only hesitation about the puff pastry is that it tends to get a bit flabby the next day. The samosas still taste awfully good, though. I had some for breakfast.)
I admit that the samosas were not much of a success with the girls -- Laura, who as a toddler once calmly ate two entire bowls of hot salsa, to the amazement of the waiters in the Mexican restaurant, now wrinkles her nose at anything the least bit "spicy," even rice pudding (!). She at least took a few nibbles, but put it down fairly politely after that, and offered it to her little sister, who ate that one as well as all of her own but eventually caved in to peer pressure and said that she thought they were spicy too. I'd even left out the chili pepper and the amchur! Oh well -- more for me.
Here is Madhur Jaffrey's own version of garam masala ("hot spices" or "hot mixture"), which she offers as less pallid than the ready-made stuff, "which you may certainly resort to in emergencies," she says rather tartly. (After looking at the list of ingredients on my store-bought jar, I don't blame her. Nine percent of the daily recommendation of sodium in 1/4 teaspoon!) The smell of the homemade version is incredible -- so vivid and complex. I had to get out the jar of the bought mixture to compare. You have to wonder when the first ingredient is salt; the only spice I can reliably pick out is cumin. With the homemade, pretty much every ingredient is recognizable -- pungent, earthy, warm, spicy.
Madhur Jaffrey's Garam Masala
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 2-inch stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds (or regular cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 of an average-sized nutmeg
Place all of the ingredients in a spice grinder, or in a clean coffee grinder. Run the machine for 30 to 40 seconds, or until the spices are finely ground. Store in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid; as with all spices, keep away from heat and sunlight.
(To clean the coffee grinder, brush out the excess spices or wipe the grinder and the lid with a dry paper towel. Put 1/4 cup of rice in the grinder and run it for about 30 seconds; tip out the ground rice and wipe the grinder again.)
Makes about 3 tablespoons. Active work time, about 2 minutes, not counting finding a store that carries unground cardamom seeds.