NomNoms! How to Make Lamb Samosas

Oh reality, we all have to return to your purview sometime. With the majority of this year's convention season, the Olympics, the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) and its traditional accompanying reprieve from academia behind us, it's understandable to want heave a wistful sigh. However, the passing of some of these things opens new opportunities, or at least presents chances to encounter favorite seasonal activities and foods for the first time this year.

Here in New England, the transition from summer to winter is typically demarked with certain pastimes and events held so dearly by so many that they become associated with the region itself. You've got your apple picking, harvest festivals, pumpkin carving and, of course, the glorious explosions of color generously provided by our deciduous floral neighbors. These are all wonderful in their own right, this time of year rocks serious socks, but there are definitely a not-insignificant number of mundane little things that muster renewed appreciation when the weather turns cooler. Cooking is definitely one of these aforementioned things that I tackle with vigor after a few sweltering months wherein most food was either grilled or delightfully frozen.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a personal favorite mentioned a while back when the brilliance that is the personal pie maker first graced this blog. Oh pie maker, you are in your own class of phenomenal. Though this recipe is more difficult than any other currently in the Kitchen Codex, the tricky portion is limited to a single element of preparation and the end result makes this effort very worthwhile. Like all the other recipes posted on Care & Feeding of Nerds, this one easily accommodates variation and lends itself readily to experimenting. <cranks the Dr. Horrible soundtrack>

Difficulty: Advanced
Availability of Ingredients: Will Vary Geographically
Gadgetry: Recommended
Feeds: 2-8 Nerds
Time Till Noms: 45-60 Minutes

Required Equipment: A large frying pan, a 2-quart saucepan, rolling pin, colander, a microwave-safe mug or small saucepan, personal pie maker*, small sauce brush, muffin tin**
Optional Equipment: pie lifter*, spatula**

* mini-pie maker version, **non pie maker version

Ingredients
1 pound lamb (may be ground or whole)
4-6 medium-to-large white potatoes
1.5 cups of frozen peas
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons of salt
1/3 cup milk or cream
Crushed black pepper to taste
2 nine-inch (22.86cm) circles of pie dough (pre-made or your own)
6 'sheets' of phyllo dough
1 Tablespoon of butter (melted and cooled)

Optional bonus spices
1/2 teaspoon of each of the following:
Garam marsala
Ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon of each of the following:
Tumeric
Cardamom

A pinch of cayenne pepper for those Scoville unit aficionados out there.
The foundation of samosa goodness
Prelude: Before beginning any of these steps, remove your phyllo dough from the freezer if it was being stored there. The dough will need to be completely thawed before you can work with it. If you're using this recipe to make mini-pies with a muffin tin, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218.33 degrees Celsius). If you're employing the muffin tin to get your mini-pie fix spray the cups with a light coating of the non-stick spray.

Step 1: Wash, then cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch [1.27cm] pieces. Once cut, give the potatoes a quick ice bath (see Stage One here for the how and why we do this) before them into your saucepan with enough water to cover them and a few shakes of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and have the potatoes simmer in the background while you get to work on the next steps. Melt the butter in the microwave or on your stovetop in a small sauce pan. Set aside immediately after the butter has melted (this should only take a minute or so).

Step 2: If you're not using ground lamb, trim your cuts of lamb to remove the bones and/or as much of the fat as possible before cutting the meat into 1/2 inch [1.27cm] pieces. Toss the meat into a large frying pan with a pinch of salt and pepper, then brown the meat (about 8-10 minutes). 
If your mixture looks like this, then you're ready for potatoes

Step 3: After the meat has browned, toss the frozen peas into the pan to soften them. As the peas thaw, check the potatoes to see if they're done. They should give a little when poked with a fork or the utensil of your choice, but not be entirely squishy. Once the potatoes are of this texture, remove them from the stove and drain in a colander before adding them slowly to the frying pan with the lamb and peas.
Step 4: With all the ingredients in the pan, it's time to add the spices. Add as many or as few spices from the above list as you like, then add the milk or cream. The latter will help deglaze the frying pan, which will almost certainly be coated with bits of lamb and potato at this point. Fold all the ingredients together until they are well mixed, then remove the pan from the heat.
Post step 4 yummies
Step 5: This is the tricky part. Phyllo dough is usually sold in thick 'scrolls' that are comprised of dozens of tissue-thin 'sheets'. For every four pies you make you will need three 'sheets' of dough. The dough itself is extremely flimsy and prone to misbehaving (not cutting along a given line, clinging to countertops, etc). It will come coated in flour which will form a sticky paste when combined with your melted butter.

Mmm...delicious painting
Take a single 'sheet' of phyllo and gently paint the side facing up with a thin layer of melted butter. Now take a second sheet and lay it atop the first. They will stick together on contact, so be careful about lining up the edges as best you can. Paint the you-facing side of this second layer of dough with a coat of melted butter, then place a third 'sheet' atop the second. With a knife, cut your tripartite creation into quarters. These will be the tops of your pies. If you are making a full batch of eight pies (the yield of this recipe as listed), then repeat this step with a second set of three 'sheets' so you end up with eight pie tops.

Step 6: Unfurl your pie dough on your countertop. Gently press, stretch, or roll the dough until it's as flat and even as possible. Cut the dough into circles about 5 inches (12.7cm) in diameter. If you're using a muffin tin, test one of these 'rounds' in your tin to ensure a good fit and adjust succeeding rounds as needed. Cut eight of these 5-inch rounds (or as many as needed for the muffin tin).

Choose your own adventure!   Are you: Using a pie-maker? (Go to paragraph π) Using a muffin tin? (Go to paragraph τ)

Paragraph π: You preheat your pie-maker. You may want to return your rounds of pie dough (NOT the phyllo dough) to the refrigerator if your pie-maker is slow to heat, as pie dough is far more cooperative cold than warm. Once the pie-maker is hot and ready, you remove the dough rounds from the refrigerator and carefully place the 5-inch rounds into the appropriate places on the pie-maker griddle (you use a pie press if you have one). Carefully spoon out the filling, dividing it evenly amongst the four future pies. After dividing out the filling, you gently lay one of your quartered phyllo dough creations atop each would-be pie, then close the lid of your pie-maker. You wait with mounting impatience for 10 minutes while the pie-maker does its transmutation thing, then you open the device to reveal golden pastry nirvana. You try not to inflict second-degree burns on yourself by sampling prematurely as the pie cools.

Paragraph τ: You quickly test one 5-inch (12.7cm) round against the circumference of one of the cups of your muffin tin. Success! They are an approximate match (you adroitly adjust if they do not). You line the cups of your muffin tin with the 5-inch rounds then giddily spoon the savory curry filling inside. You cap each filled muffin cup with one of your quartered phyllo dough creations and gently press around the circumference to seal the flavor inside. You place the muffin tin inside your preheated oven, then ponder the true nature of human existence for 10 minutes as heavenly scents waft throughout your kitchen. You check your muffin-pies after realizing that hunger is a more pressing concern than the musings of the existential self. Brilliance! You are rewarded with flaky, flavor-filled delights. (You return the pies to the oven if they are shy and unready to be welcomed into the world...and your stomach).

Nomnoms ahoy! Wootz!

FAQs

I'm a vegetarian/vegan/non-red-meat-eater. Do you absolutely have to use lamb in this recipe?

No. You can definitely substitute the lamb for another meat BUT know that the flavor will shift accordingly. Also, if you decide not to use meat at all (which is totally ok) I would recommend adding vegetables, lentils, or chickpeas to the mix rather than tofu or another non-flesh solid protein, as the latter tend to do funky things to the overall texture of the samosas.

Just how optional are those so-called 'optional spices'?

The only spices you absolutely should use in this recipe are curry, salt and pepper. Whether or not you add anything else is entirely up to you. Depending on where you live, it may be very difficult or prohibitively expensive to acquire the spices, so I tailored the recipe to stand on its own without them. If you can get your hands on any of the optional spices then I'd recommend giving them a go, but if not you're not going to miss out.

Where do I find phyllo dough? Does it go by any other names?

You can find phyllo dough in the frozen foods section of the supermarket, most commonly near puff pastry and frozen ready-made pie crusts. While phyllo does go by many different names, phyllo is the most prevalent nomenclature.

I can't find/don't want to use phyllo dough. Can you recommend any substitutes?

Puff pastry will work in this recipe if phyllo dough is a no-go, but this type of pastry dough is often pretty expensive. You can also use standard pie dough for both the tops and bottoms of the pies. If you have a Indian/Asian market nearby, you may be able to procure frozen roti, which would also work well.

As always, have fun with the recipe and happy nomming!

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