Monday, May 30, 2011

Samosa Inspired Tartlets

My parents entertained a lot when we were kids. The day of a dinner party, my mom would pat ground beef into cutlets and whack apart a whole chicken for biryani. She would fry papadum, one by one, and stir together a bowl of raitha. For dessert, she would roll out dozens of little footballs from a milk-based dough (her signature shape for gulab jaman), fry them, and soak them in a simple syrup perfumed with cardamom and rose water. She never referred to recipes while she cooked.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

When I walked into the kitchen after completing a task I had been assigned (dusting shelves, vacuuming stairs, polishing mirrors), she would accost me with questions.

"Does the rice have enough salt?" "Are the cutlets too hot?"

By mid-day, there was desperation in her voice.

"Did I fry enough papadum???"

My mom always felt trapped in the kitchen
. But she had standards to uphold. I had seen it in India. My aunts served multiple courses and pulled everything together from scratch. They closely monitored guests as they ate and plopped servings of rice on half-filled plates. When glasses were emptied, they were quick to fill them.

Thirty minutes before the dinner party was supposed to start, my mom would put the mop away and fold up wet dish towels. My dad would put the needle on a record of belly dancing music and bring out the wine glasses.

Their guests would always stay well into the night. I took it as a sign that my parents had done something right.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2010)

(2010 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved)

I've preserved my mom's three-course tradition. It charms and baffles my guests since so few people seem to cook these day. But I have tweaked my mom's menu to make it my own. I serve a lighter starter: samosa inspired tartlets. They are faster to make than cutlets and less filing than regular samosas. The phyllo cups offer a wonderful crunch. If you're in a hurry, skip all the spices except for cumin, garlic, cayenne and salt.

Makes 12 tartlets


For tartlets:

6 sheets phyllo dough

For filing:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup boiled and cubed potatoes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 teaspoons finely diced cilantro

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap six sheets of phyllo from the roll. Keep the sheets stacked and place on cutting board. Using kitchen scissors, cut out 12-3 inch x 3 inch squares from the layers of dough. Gently push a square in each cup of a miniature muffin tin.

Bake until cups become golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Gently remove cups from tin. Time saver: The phyllo cups can be baked up to one month ahead. Store them in an air tight container at room temperature. Do not place in refrigerator. The moisture will cause the cups to soften and wilt.

Heat oil on medium heat in saucepan. Add onions and ginger and cook for 5 minutes.

Add cumin, garlic powder, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, and salt. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Add potatoes and peas. Cook until peas become bright green, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Cool.

Place filo cups on serving plate and fill them with potato mixture.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)