These Uzbek/Central Asian flaky shells are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The meat filling is nicely textured, juicy and flavorful. Make sure to make the full batch – these puppies have a tendency to magically vanish in the blink of an eye.
The dough in this sambusa recipe is very traditional: one part flour, half-part water and salt. The dough will be stiff and hard to knead, and that’s exactly how you want it to be. Modern recipes add an egg or two to make kneading easier. The resulting dough is more supple and easier to work with, but the sambusa lose their crispness and this is one of the best things about them.
Traditionally Uzbek meat sambusa is made with lamb meat and tail fat. A lot of tail fat. And a lot of onions. This fat and onions, which release water during baking, is what makes sambusa juicy and moist. While it tastes amazingly delicious, it’s very greasy. My sambusa recipe is a leaner variant made with lamb leg or shoulder. Shoulder works the best as it has the right lamb to fat ratio and is a very flavourful cut. Removing the fat does not make it taste any worse.
Meat for sambusa must be finely diced with a knife. It takes some effort, but this is very important. If you grind the meat you will get a dumpling, you don’t want that. Diced meat gives sambusa its peculiar texture and juiciness as diced meat retains water better than ground meat. Add finely chopped onions, salt and spice to the meat and the filling is ready. Cumin is one of the traditional spices added to sambusa, as well as black pepper. I am not a big fan of cumin, so I use black pepper and coriander instead for flavour. If you prefer, you can substitute coriander for cumin.
For the dough:
400g plain flour
1 1/2tsp salt
3Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
For the meat filling:
2lbs beef chuck diced into about 1/4 inch pieces
2large onions finely chopped
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tsp ground coriander seeds
For the egg wash:
Prepare the dough by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl and let the flour hydrate for 5 minutes or longer, then knead for 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let sit at room temperature for at least half an hour.
Prepare the meat filling by combining the meat, the onions and the seasonings.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a rectangle about 1/16 inch thick. Pour 3 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil and spread out evenly across the entire surface. Roll the dough into a tight log, making sure there are no air pockets. Slice the log into about 16 1 ¼ inch cylinders. Flatten each cylinder with the palm of your hand then roll out to a 5 inch circle.
Put about 3 – 3 ½ ounces of meat filling in the centre of each circle. Seal and place on a large baking sheet seam side down.
Whisk egg yolks and milk until well mixed. Using a pastry brush paint the sambusas with a light, even coat of egg wash.
Bake on the top rack of the oven preheated to 220C for 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet around once after 15 minutes. For softer crust, bake at 210C for 30 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.
Refrigerated leftover sambusa can be re-heated for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 200C.
In case you couldn’t tell, I have a bit of a craving for chillies at the moment. Dragon chicken is an Indo-Chinese dish that definitely delivers on this front and consists of battered chicken stir fried in a spicy chilli sauce. The sauce has a lot of flavour from the garlic, ginger and soy sauce while the dried red chillies deliver a fiery kick. You can adjust the amount of chillies and chilli paste based on your taste. If you like a milder dish, you will want to use significantly less but then you won’t really be making dragon chicken.
This is quite a dry dish. The sauce should be just enough to coat the chicken so if you want more then, by all means, double the sauce ingredients. The chilli paste can be bought readymade but is easily made by soaking dried red chillies in hot water and then grinding to a paste. They give the dish an amazing kick. If you are not a spice fan then this recipe is probably not for you. If however, you can’t get enough of it, read on.
500g Boneless Chicken Breast (cut into thin strips)
Coriander leaves or Spring Onion for garnishing (finely chopped)
Oil for Deep frying
2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Red Chilli Paste (ground dry red chilli)
1 Egg White
¼ – ½ cup Plain Flour
¼ cup Cornflour
Ginger Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 Tbsp Oil
3 Dry Red Chillies
4 Tbsp Cashews, broken into small pieces
1 large Onion, sliced thinly
1 Bell Pepper, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
1 Tbsp Red Chilli Paste (ground up dry red chilli)
1 Tbsp Dark Soy sauce
2 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup
Salt to taste
1 tsp Sugar
Take chicken in a bowl and add all the marination ingredients. Mix well and let it marinate for 15 minutes. Now heat some oil for deep-frying. When the oil is hot drop the chicken in oil and fry till golden. Drain and set aside.
Now heat oil in a frying pan. Add in dry red chilli and cashews and fry till the cashew turn golden brown.
Now add in onions and bell peppers and toss well in the oil.
Add in ginger garlic paste and sauté for a min.
Now add in red chilli paste, soy sauce, tomato ketchup, salt, sugar and mix well.
Cook this for a couple of mins till the water evaporates and sauce thickens.
Now add in the fried chicken and toss well in the sauce. Add in chopped coriander or spring onion and mix well.
Gochugang is a deep red fermented chilli paste that has a nice deep dark flavour (not too much heat, with a little bit of sweetness). It is pretty readily available in Asian grocers and most large supermarkets now.
The sauce is rich and spicy with a hum of garlic and fresh ginger while the drizzle of honey helps to balance the heat and the black sesame seeds and/or peanuts add a nice nutty flavour and crunch. The crispy batter, succulent chicken and deep flavour of the sauce will have you disgracing yourself as you destroy the lot but don’t worry, you won’t be the only one.
If, like Marilyn Monroe and I, you like it hot then add a little gochugaru (Korean chilli powder) to the sauce for extra lip-smacking goodness.
For the spicy Korean bbq sauce:
¼ cup gochugang (Korean Chilli Paste)
5 garlic cloves, grated
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey or barley malt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the chicken nuggets:
3 chicken breasts cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 cup rice flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 ¼ cup cold water
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying
1. Preheat oil to 180°C.
2. For the spicy Korean bbq sauce, place all ingredients into a milk pan and whisk together over a gentle heat for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar and infuse the garlic and ginger. Set aside.
3. Sift together the flour and cornflour into a mixing bowl. Whisk in water until fully incorporated and no lumps remain.
4. Dip each nugget piece into the batter and shake to remove any excess. Carefully drop each battered nugget into the hot oil and fry for 5 to 6 minutes (this will have to be done in batches).
5. Drain onto paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Once all nuggets have been fried, place nuggets back into the fryer and fry a second time (double fry) for 5 to 7 minutes or until light golden brown and crispy. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
6. Pour some of the Korean bbq sauce into a heatproof bowl and thin out with a few drops of water. Add the nuggets and toss together in the sauce to coat them. Transfer them onto a serving plate with a slotted spoon and garnish with black sesame seeds or crushed peanuts and a drizzle of honey or more Korean bbq sauce.
For the uninitiated, cacciatore (pronounced catch-chee-ah-tor-ay) refers to a “hunter-style” method of cooking in which the meat, vegetables and herbs slowly simmer in a single pot. This recipe stays true to the Northern Italian tradition of using white wine, but adds passata, because, well, why not? Buon appetito!
500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (from about 2 sprigs)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
250g chestnut mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
4oz smoked pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, roughly chopped
250ml dry white wine
1 chicken stock cube
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
In a small bowl, combine garlic, salt, black pepper, rosemary, and 2 tbsp of the oil; stir to make a paste; rub evenly over chicken pieces. Cover and chill for 2 hours.
Heat remaining oil in a heavy cast iron pot over high heat. Working in batches, cook chicken pieces in a single layer, turning to brown all sides. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Add mushrooms, pancetta and onions to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and pancetta is rendered, about 8 minutes.
Add the wine and stir to loosen browned bits from the bottom of pot. Add the stock cube and passata and bring to a boil. Return chicken pieces to pot, reduce heat to medium heat, partially cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Then uncover pot, reduce heat to medium, and cook 15-20 minutes more (depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Harcha is one of the most delicious Moroccan snacks that I came across thanks to my beautiful Moroccan friend, Sarah, who never turns up to a get-together empty handed. So when she arrived for a coffee with a giant harcha fresh from the pan, we wasted no time devouring it with multiple toppings and/or fillings. Harcha is a semolina bread that you can make in any size and fill with savoury fillings such as cheese or sweet such as honey.
1 1/2 cups (250 grams) semolina
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
7 tablespoons (100 grams) butter
1/2 cup (100 ml) milk (or as needed)
Preparing the Dough:
Place the semolina in a bowl, add the sugar, baking powder and the salt. Mix well. You need semolina for this recipe so do not try to substitute it.
Melt the butter in the microwave or a saucepan then add the butter to the semolina and mix with a spoon. When it gets hard with the spoon, mix with your hands, Moroccan style!
Add the milk and mix until you get a smooth dough. Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Shaping the Harcha:
Turn on the heat to medium and heat up a heavy cast iron pan!
Back to the dough… you will notice that it is drier as the semolina has absorbed the milk. If it’s too dry, add a little more milk.
To get perfect shapes, use a cookie cutter to make medium sized Harcha. You can make a large one, or mini-ones – whatever you like. The discs should be ¼” thick or a bit thicker. When shaping the disks use parchment paper, so it’s easy to transfer them to the pan.
Cooking the Harcha:
Reduce the heat to low – very important otherwise the harcha will burn from outside and not cook from inside – transfer the harcha to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes on each side. You will see that the surface gets a beautiful golden brown colour and that the discs start to dry. If you try to push on them, they will feel dry. Flip and cook the other side.
Let the harcha cool a bit and cut it in half with a sharp knife. If the harcha is still too hot and the knife not sharp, it will crumble.
Fill with cheese, jam, honey, or anything you like!
Something a bit different from your regular marinara, this meatball dish only takes about 30 minutes to whip up and is comfort food to the max.
1 lb (450g) minced turkey
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons basil pesto (or any pesto you like)
1 large egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon basil pesto (or any pesto you like)
2/3 cup (160ml) sour-cream
1 1/4 cup (300ml) chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with one teaspoon water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, parmesan, pesto, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. With clean hands, gently work the mixture together until it is well combined. Shape into approximately 12 balls and transfer to a plate.
Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the meatballs until golden and cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside.
In the same skillet, sauté minced garlic until fragrant and slowly add the sour cream while whisking. Heat through on medium heat, keep stirring slowly. Add chicken stock, cornflour, basil pesto, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Keep cooking on medium-low heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until smooth.
Put the chicken meatballs back into the skillet and heat through for a couple of minutes, coating with the creamy pesto sauce. Serve with spaghetti and more parmesan and basil for good measure. Enjoy!