Updated: Apr 6, 2022
“Biting into a samosa is like trying to pronounce words in English, you have to shape your mouth in a way to get every bit.”
Alain Brémond-Torrent (2013)
These have been in the culinary laboratory for a while. The filling is based on a recipe by Reza Mahammad, in his book “Rice, Spice and all Things Nice”, but I’ve adapted it to feature a mixture of both brown and white crab meat rather than just the significantly more popular white meat. The confident character of the brown meat lends a perfect opportunity to get spicy but I’ve added to the filling some grated lime zest to complement its richness. Using the brown meat brings the cost of the dish down as well as using what is unnecessarily close to a waste product.
Whilst the filling has notes of southern, coastal India in the black mustard seeds and curry leaves, the ajwain seeds, which I thoroughly recommend in the pastry, are more resonant of the pakoras of areas further north in the subcontinent. However they are a traditional inclusion and the almost citrus-like note they lend is very welcome with the flavour of the crab.
I’ve been enjoying trialling my experiments with the tomato (tinned tomatoes) and chive dip proposed by Chef Mahammad in the same book, but even a familiar tomato salsa or sweet chilli sauce would accompany well.
This recipe is, for the most part, an adaptation of Chef Mahammad's. The proportion of crab meat is greater here than in the original, and of course it uses the mix of brown and white crab meat rather than just the white. Otherwise it differs little apart from the inclusion of the grated lime zest to counteract the additional richness from the brown crab meat.
However, Chef Mahammad does not give a recipe for the samosa pastry, preferring instead to recommend the use of a shop-bought product. Samosa pastry may well be commercially available but is apparently not readily so. Moreover, it is not (or, at least, should not be) a particularly challenging pastry to make. However, I was disappointed to find that my more trusted sources of recipes were not proving as reliable as I would have expected in this case. Undeterred, a little more research and a few trials led me to something I'm really quite pleased with and describe below. Do note that if you leave the pastry resting for longer than indicated the oil will start to ooze out and the pastry will become too dry to use.
By contrast the crab filling can be made ahead, even the day before, and kept in the fridge until ready for action.
Ingredients (makes 6-8 samosas)
150g 50:50 mixed white and brown crab meat
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, plus a sufficient quantity for deep-frying
1 tsp black mustard seeds
6 curry leaves, finely chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh red and/or green chillies, or quantity to taste
½ tsp finely grated lime zest
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the samosa pastry (sufficient for 12 samosas):
150g plain flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ajwain (carom) seeds (optional, but recommended)
2½ tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
3-4 tbsp water, plus extra for sealing
To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl, add the ajwain (carom) seeds and the oil. Using fingertips, work the oil into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually knead in as much water as necessary to bring a rough dough together (it should feel only mildly sticky). Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead briefly (1-3 mins) until smooth enough for rolling. Roll the pastry into a sausage shape, cut in half and then cut each half into three chunks. Using your hands, roll each of the chunks of dough into a ball and then flatten each a ball into a round patty. Transfer to a plate, cover with cling film and leave to rest somewhere cool for 20 mins, or up to 2 hours.
For the filling, heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds and chopped curry leaves until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the turmeric, ginger and chillies and fry for about a minute. Fold in the crab meat and lime zest and cook over a low heat for a further minute. Off the heat, stir in the chopped coriander and season to taste.
On a well-floured surface and with a well-floured rolling pin, roll the first patty of pastry into a circle about 6" in diameter. Cut in half then form into a cone (see Notes). Load the cone with 2-3 tbsp of the filling then moisten the open end of the cone with water and seal and crimp it together. Transfer to a plate lined with greaseproof paper or foil and cover loosely. Repeat with the other half of the circle of pastry and then repeat with as many more of the remaining patties as required to use up the filling.
Heat the oil for deep-frying to 190°C. Put in a few of the samosas (don't overcrowd the pan) and fry for about 2 mins until crisp and golden. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper then continue to cook the remaining samosas the same way. Serve hot or at room temperature with a dipping sauce.
Forming samosas: Hold the semicircle of pastry in your hand with the curved edge pointing towards you. Fold one corner into the centre of the curved edge using your thumb to keep it out of contact with the lower layer of pastry. Moisten the edge with a few dabs of water then fold the opposite corner again toward the centre of the curved edge but on top of the first fold with an overlap of ½-1cm. Press the folds together, making sure the pointed end is fully sealed, and open into a cone. The cone can then be loaded with your filling and sealed and crimped with a bit of water to act as a glue.
"Rice, Spice and all Things Nice", Reza Mahammad (2006), pp. 36 and 142: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rice-spice-all-Things-Nice/dp/0743285328