Oven baked Samosas with ground beef

Being oven baked and not fried, these Samosas are wonderfully tender and light. Here, ground beef and potatoes are used, and you can make a non-meat alternative with only potatoes cooked with same spices.

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For the dough (similar to a pizza dough)
1- Mix 10 gr of baker’s yeast with 100 ml of warm water and let it stand for 10 minutes.
2- In a large bowl mix: one and half cup of sifted flour (I like to mix whole and white wheat flour), one teaspoon of salt and half a tablespoon of brown sugar.
3- Add half a cup of yogurt and the yeast liquid. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers (add some flour if need be) and knead some more.
4- Place a wet towel on the bowl, and let the dough rise for at least an hour.

For the filling (for 400 gr of high quality ground beef)
1- First cook 400 gr of potatoes washed and unpeeled in boiling water (place them in cold water and let the water boil) until a fork can pierce through them. Then peel them when they have cooled a little and mash roughly. You can add a little bit of butter when mashing them to help with the process. Set aside.
2- While the potatoes are cooking, place a little bit of olive oil in a large pan and add a teaspoon of cilantro (coriander) seeds, one and half teaspoon of cumin, one and half teaspoon of Madras curry, a teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper, some fresh ginger root grated, some garlic also freshly crushed and the pulp of three tomatoes. Add the ground beef and mix. Cook well and add a generous amount of fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves chopped at the very end.
3- Mix the meat and the potatoes together in a large bowl and set aside

To make the samosas (about 20 of them)
1- Take the dough out of the bowl and separate it in 20 equal portions.
2- Flatten each portion with a roller in the form of a square.
3- Place some of the meat and potato mixture in the center and fold in the form of a triangle. You can use some egg white to close each of them but it is not necessary. Just press with your fingers.
4- Brush each samosa with egg yolk.
5- Bake in a 200º c. oven for about 15-20 minutes.

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Enjoy with some Raita on the side (yoghurt with cucumber, cumin and fresh mint).

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Jamming, preserving and pickling…

I never thought I would actually ever prepare jam, but I did and I still do regularly. believe me, once you make your own jam, you will never buy the market variety ever again. This has been my experience.

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So let me start from the beginning and continue with a few tips and recipes.

Why I had to learn

Everything started on a cold November day in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. We had arrived in late October and the first snowflakes were appearing followed by those amazing deep bleu skies and very cold winds. I was new to the place and I was exploring the various food markets.

As the weather got colder, the fruits and vegetables available got fewer. The tomatoes and apples I saw in October had virtually disappeared by early December. There was almost nothing green… I was at a loss of what to feed my then almost two-year old son. And I was dreaming of juicy mangos and fresh tomatoes. I could almost feel the tanginess of lemon when I concentrated enough.

By January, all that was available were onions and potatoes. Piles and piles of them. My only consolations were canned tomatoes and honey.

By early March, colours finally started coming back in the market.

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I had gotten the first whiff of them when I saw the apricot tree bloom in the garden. We will have apricots I thought! And indeed we did. By April we had gathered more than 20 kilos of apricots and if you walked under the tree, you would get tipsy just from the smell of the ones that had fallen on the ground.

As the garden filled with flowers, so did the market with fresh ingredients. After the apricots, came the strawberries, the plums, the cherries and mountains and mountains of raspberries. By June, there were gigantic melons and watermelons sold on the side of the road near our house.

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And the vegetables were plentiful as well, from tomatoes to cucumbers to herbs of all sorts. And in the garden, the mint that had been a small dried branch that I had, I admit, dismissed during the winter days, had bloomed into a large bush generously providing shade and a most wonderful scent.

And that is when I started doing research on jams and conserves and pickling, and all sorts of tips related to the preservation of fresh fruits and vegetables. And as I did so, I realized that everyone around me was doing the same. Sugar became a sought after commodity and would fly off the shelves fast. Limits were even placed on how much sugar each customer could buy. But that year, I managed.

I made jam with almost all the fruits I could find: apricots, strawberries, raspberries and cherries. I set some fruit syrup on the side to be used in winter for baking cakes and muffins, and waffles. I even tried tomato jam! I also pickled lemons and more.

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I even made raspberry vinegar! I should try doing it again. (Mix fresh raspberries with white apple vinegar in a glass bottle. Place in a dark place for four weeks and it is ready!)

I have since become more comfortable in making jams and preserves, and even tried my hand at making Chutney. I wished I had done that before.

Here a few recipes you may enjoy from Fig & Lemon.

Jam

Making jam I realized is easy, really easy. All you need are fresh ingredients, glass jars and a little bit of time.

Before you embark on making jam, here are a few tips you may find useful:

– Do not mix excessively during cooking or the jam may become too liquid and the pieces of fruit could disintegrate.
– To know if it is done, place a few drops of the jam on a cold plate and tilt it. If the liquid runs, it is not done.
– To prepare a glass jam container: simply pour boiling water in the container and rinse with that water. Then place it open side up until it dries. The cover should preferably be made of glass.
– Use a disposable cloth to clean the rim of the container after filling it with jam. Do not use a wet reusable cloth as it could encourage the formation of bacteria.
– Jam made this way can stay up to a year in the fridge.

Jam is easy to make and once you have mastered the technic and gotten a feel for how each fruit gently lets out its natural sweetness, you can be inventive.

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For example, apricot jam is one of the easiest to make as the fruit stays together. There is no need to let it sit in sugar and it cooks in just about 25 minutes. No need to stir it too often. Strawberries and raspberries are more delicate so you may want to stir very gently. Figs require they be left in sugar for at least an hour before cooking and you must stir continuously during the 20 minutes of cooking. The best part is the syrup they produce, and you can place them in separate jars to be used as natural sweetners when baking. See here the recipe for strawberry jam and syrup, that can be applied to many other fruits.

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And do not hesitate to be inventive. Think about mixing ingredients as though you were walking into a scented garden. Think of verbena with apricots or lavender with figs or even rose with fig. Avoid using essences, and only use fresh ingredients. Use thyme or rosemary, and spices too like cardamon as in this Persian carrot jam made with rosewater and cardamon, which I replicated with peach.

You can also replace white sugar with brown sugar either fully or in proportions (3/4rds brown for 1/4rd white). If you use only brown sugar, use less than 75% of what the original recipe calls for (eg: use 750 gr of brown sugar instead of one kilo of white sugar for one kilo of fruits). See this apricot jam with brown sugar for more explanations.

Unlike jam, marmelade is more difficult to make. The term marmelade only applies to citrus fruits. I made lemon marmelade without using any chemicals or artificial hardeners, and it came out fine. The process is however more assiduous than simple jam. But try it, it is really worth it!

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And you need not to only make sweet jams. You can prepare a wonderful peppery jam with blackberry and rosemary, or a spicy tomato jam. Both are wonderful on toasts with white cheese.

Preserves and chutney

This for me was the next step after making jam. The process is a tad more complicated, but it is still doable with the right ingredients.

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The first time I made chutney I was extremely careful in measuring the ingredients and cooking just as the instructions said. Then I relaxed and realised that a lot had to do with the aroma as the chutney gets made. The latter is the way I always cook, but since it was a first for me, I wanted to be careful. Here is the recipe for mango chutney, and it can be replicated for other fruits such as figs or even plums.

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Preserves are not hard either but you need time. For example, to make Moroccan Leemon M’raqqad, you just need lemons and a lot salt. After that, time does the rest.

Further than jam and preserves

Once you have homemade jam or preserves in the fridge, the world is yours! or almost…

You can make wonderful sweet dishes such as Sachertorte with homemade apricot jam, or pain perdu in the oven or apple tart using strawberry syrup instead of sugar. And if you have some time in the morning, try these wonderful upside down popovers with apricot jam.

And of course you can be creative with yoghurt. Just add some fruit syrup to plain yoghurt and you can make a delightful homemade strawberry yoghurt, and it comes out naturally pink!

On the salty side, many dishes can also be prepared and really fast since the chutney or the preserved lemon will add so much flavour! Try these delicate asparagus (or should it be asparagi?) cooked in saffron topped with mango chutney, or this Mediterranean red snapper with cherry tomatoes and Moroccan preserved lemons.

There is so much more you can do. I have only listed a few recipes and you can find more on the website. Be creative and try your hand! Let me know as I would love to hear from you.

Thank you.

Kenza.

Mughal style ground beef

A recipe straight from the kitchen of the Mughal Court. The raisins add a wonderful touch!

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For 500gr of lean high quality ground beef:
1- In a pan, place just a little bit of olive oil and add: about 3 cm of fresh ginger root crushed, some crushed garlic, a teaspoon of Madras curry, a teaspoon of cumin, a small piece of a cinnamon stick, and salt and pepper to taste.
2- Once the spices give out their aroma, add half a kilo of very small tomatoes (slit them with a knife without cutting them so they may release their juices while cooking), a bunch of fresh cilantro chopped, a handful of raisins and the ground beef. Mix well.

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3- Cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the meat is done. Mix from time to time.

Remember to take out the piece of cinnamon just before serving. I served it with white Basmati rice cooked with raisins and Raita (yoghurt mixed with cumin and cucumber).

Asperges au safran et au chutney de mangue – Saffron asparagus with mango chutney

A delicious side dish with asparagus cooked in saffron scented water topped with mango chutney. I served it with warm boiled eggs on a bed of baby arugula. Perfect for a warm summer’s lunch.

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1- Wash and cut the asparagus at about a third of its length.
2- Boil water and add a generous amount of saffron liquid (recipe here ). Place the asparagus gently and let it cook until it is al dente.

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3- Take the asparagus out of the boiling water and place them in a sieve to get rid of the excess water.

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To serve simply place it on a plate and top with mango chutney (recipe here). It can accompany any dish that does not have many spices since the chutney provides a lot of taste, such as eggs as here or broiled fish. Enjoy!