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
- 200g water
- 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
- 2tsp salt
For the egg wash:
- 2egg yolks
- 2tsp milk
- 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.