Sunday, 23 December 2012

Baked Vegan Sweet Potato Samosas

I have a vegan friend named Jessica. Since she's become vegan (she beat me to it), I've had all sorts of adventures cooking for her. Especially interesting at times is finding something she can eat, but also that we both like. I love quinoa; she definitely does not. She loves sweet potato; I only choke down on it because I know it's good for me. So when she requested a sweet potato dish about a year ago, I came up with sweet potato samosas. They're spicy (always a hit for Jessica), distinctly Asian (always a hit for both of us), and a good way to fit the sweet potato bill.

My first go at these was a hit, and so needless to say, an encore presentation was in order. Yesterday Jessica stopped by to collect on her early Christmas present (the promise of a day of samosa-making). We decided to make so many that they'd have to go in the freezer for later use. So we multiplied the recipe by 8!

The first step was baking the potatoes. We decided to do about half white potato and half sweet potato. We scrubbed them down, then punctured them each several times with a sharp knife. Then we laid them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked them at 350°F for about an hour, or until they were soft. (The white potatoes were done sooner than the sweet potatoes.)

These sweet potatoes were pretty large, to say the least! We checked them every 15 minutes or so to see if they were getting soft.
When they were cooked, we let them cool a little, then Jessica got up to her elbows in potato and peeled them.
The potatoes peel beautifully when cooked, which helps save some of the flesh you'd lose by peeling them beforehand.

Once your potato is peeled, you mash it, chop up some onion and get your ginger and garlic ready.
Onion, ginger and mashed potato and sweet potato, ready to become delicious samosa filling!

You get the filling started by sauteing the onion and cumin seed in some oil.
Cumin seed adds that distinctive flavour to samosas.

When the onions started browning, we added the garlic, ginger and spices. It made the mixture a beautiful yellow colour. Then we added the mashed potato.
The filling is a beautiful yellow colour even before the potato is added. This is the turmeric's doing!
Your finished filling will be a beautiful, bright orange colour, and should smell and taste divine!
This is what our finished filling looked like.

Considering there was a pastry in order, but that it had to be less flaky and more durable, it was something of a process to develop it. The key here is ice water. It makes a beautiful, stretchy dough that could almost merit the title of invincible.
I make this pastry in a food processor. It's so quick and easy!
There is definitely a distinctive shape to samosas, and we wanted to keep that. So this is how we did that:
We would take a ball of dough roughly the size of a golf ball to begin with.

When rolling out the pastry, we tried to keep it in a long oval shape.
Then we would cut it in half crosswise, to create a sort of rounded triangle (this was not always exact, as you can see!).
We kept a little cup of water handy, so we could dip our finger and...
...wet the edges of the pastry so it will seal better.
Then we would put about one tablespoon of filling in the centre of each piece.
We pinch up the cut edge first (matching the two corners).
Seal the whole side very firmly, as they will crack open when baking otherwise!
Then fold up the rounded edge, to cover the whole remaining side of the samosa. If it doesn't match perfectly, it's not a big deal, but do make sure to press firmly when sealing!
Once you seal your samosa, it should look kind of like a three-cornered hat!
After folding your samosa, you'll put it on a cookie sheet, covered with a damp towel. The dough will get really dry otherwise (I even found that the unrolled dough got kind of dry as I went along!). Once you fill a cookie sheet, you brush them with non-dairy milk (we used almond), then bake them until they're golden. (We under-baked ours a little, as we plan to freeze them and re-bake them to warm them up later.)
These little parcels are so yummy! (Ours will brown more when we re-heat them later.)

Now for the recipe!

Baked Vegan Sweet Potato Samosas
Makes about 20 samosas

For the filling:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped
3 small cloves garlic, chopped
1½ teaspoon grated ginger root
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon garam masala spice
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ teaspoon lime juice
¾ cup mashed sweet potato, or a mixture of white potato and sweet potato

For the pastry:
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
¼  cup 100% vegetable shortening
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
¼ cup ice water (or more or less)

For baking:
Non-dairy milk to brush tops

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cumin seed and cook until onions begin to brown. Add garlic, ginger, lime juice and seasonings, cooking about one minute longer. Mix in mashed potato and remove from heat.

To make the pastry, mix flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the kneading blade. Add shortening and pulse until it's mixed in and the mixture looks a little crumbly. Mix in non-dairy milk. With the machine running, add about 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, only adding enough for the dough to stick together in a ball (you may not need the full amount of ice water). Turn the dough out onto the table and knead about 10 times.

To assemble, keep a damp towel and a little cup of water handy. Make sure to cover any assembled samosas with the damp towel while preparing others, or they will dry out.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Begin by breaking off a ball of dough that is about the size of a golf ball. Roll this out into a long oval and rolling as thin as you can. Cut the oval in half crosswise, leaving you with two rounded triangles. Wet the edges with a little water so they'll seal better, then put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each piece of dough. Pinch together the corners of the cut side first, sealing that side firmly. Then fold up the rounded edge to cover the remainder of the samosa and seal tightly. You should end up with a shape that's kind of like a three-pointed hat with a fairly flat bottom.

Place prepared samosas on a parchment-lined baking sheets and cover with the damp towel. When a sheet is full, brush samosas with non-dairy milk and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. (If you plan to re-heat them later, bake until just starting to brown and then re-warm them in a 300°F oven for about 15-20 minutes.) Repeat this until you've used all your dough and filling. Serve samosas hot with your favourite dipping sauce.


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