I first tasted samosas when I was about eight years old. They’re very child friendly. A warm handheld pastry snack is always welcome but when it has potatoes and a mild curry flavour, it’s just perfect on a cold day. I haven’t made them in years but my little girl spotted Fizzy, from Emye Ethiopian food, making vegan sambusas at our local market in Midleton and she loved them. So I’ve started to make them at home now but have been baking them in the oven. So far I’ve been able to cram all sorts of vegetables in.
This minced beef version is delicious though, with plenty of ginger and a fresh burst of coriander. Complete with filling protein-packed lentils, these samosas are a complete meal in themselves. My recipe is a little mild and family friendly so do add extra spices or chili if you prefer. I usually serve mine with sriracha sauce. You can use finely shredded leftover roast chicken to make chicken pies too or use regular potatoes in place of the sweet potatoes.
You can make the filling mixture the day before if you want and assemble them at the last minute. Folding them can be a bit of a skill but once you start it’s easy. Just keep folding the triangle in towards itself so that each side is sealed and no filling can escape.
Many cultures have their own version of this. From Indian Samosas to Ethiopian or Somali Sambusa. There are also Turkish and many more Middle Eastern versions with cheese and vegetables. It’s a delicious way to serve tasty savoury fillings and perfect for packed lunches or picnics.
Ginger, beef and lentil samosas
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion
1 thumb sized piece of ginger (2 tbsp once grated)
400g minced beef
1 heaped tsp garam masala or similar curry spices
150g sweet potato
400g tin bijoux verts lentils, 240g once drained
20g fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 pack filo pastry sheets, defrosted
1 tbsp nigella seeds
Melt the coconut oil in a wide pan and add the finely diced onion. Cook on a medium heat for five minutes, add the ginger and stir, moving around the pan for a minute. Add the minced beef and garam masala. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add 150ml water, the finely diced sweet potato and the lentils. Mix well. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for 10-12 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked and the mixture has reduced a little and is drier. Remove from the heat. Fold in the chopped coriander, season well with salt then leave to cool. Spread it on a large baking tray to cool it quickly if you’re short on time.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut each long sheet of filo pastry into a long rectangle. Lay one on the countertop and spoon 1/8 of the cooled filling into the top corner. Brush the pastry with water and fold it diagonally to create a triangle shape, continue to fold, retaining the triangle shape and seal the dampened edges. Repeat with the remaining filling and pastry till you have made eight. Lay the samosas on two baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 10 minutes then turn each one over. Brush each one with a little water and sprinkle with nigella seeds and return to the oven for a final 10 minutes till golden and crispy. Leave to cool for five minutes before serving with salad and hummus or yogurt.
Bristol’s Somali Kitchen: Empowering women through cooking
Suad Yusuf set up the Somali Kitchen in Bristol to bring women together to share recipes, promote healthy eating and to support and empower one another.
Where to eat African cuisine in Metro Detroit
THE DETROIT NEWS — Being a huge continent, the food found in Africa varies among the countries within it. Some staples are seasoned meats, rice, couscous and fried plantains.
Metro Detroit is lucky to have a few authentic restaurants that serve the dishes of Ethiopia, Morocco, Senegal, Burundi and elsewhere. Here’s a look:
Maty’s African Restaurant: A small, colorful dining area that can seat about two dozen people is filled with aroma of grilled fish, lamb skewers and beef shawarma. I’ll return for the fataya, a Senegalese version of a fried empanada comes stuffed with chicken or fish and is served with a side of mustard-y onion slaw. 21611 Grand River, Detroit. (313) 472-5885 or eatatmatys.com. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Taste of Ethiopia: This cozy spot offers a buffet lunch on weekdays ($10.95) with jerk chicken, collard greens, fried plantains, split peas and a fantastic red lentil dish called yemisir we’t. Many of those dishes are on their vast dinner menu, which also includes vegetarian and meat combos, and beer, wine and cocktails. 28639 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield. (248) 905-5560 or tasteofethiopia.com. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and noon-10 p.m. Sat.
The Blue Nile: Also Ethiopian, the Blue Nile offers all-you-can-eat feasts for vegetarians and carnivores, as well as several vegan dishes. Both Blue Nile and Taste of Ethiopia serve injera, a very soft, sourdough flatbread that is unlike any other bread I’ve tasted. It’s porous, spongy texture is perfect for soaking up stews and sauces. Blue Nile has two locations and both have a full bar. 545 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale. (248) 547-6699. 221 E. Washington, Ann Arbor. (734) 998-4746. bluenilemi.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 4-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 3-9 p.m. Sun. Ann Arbor location is also open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues.-Sat. for lunch.
Nwanneka’s Place: Specialties here include a large variety of soup, goat meat and yams. Nwanneka’s, which also serves American and soul food dishes, serves fufu, a dish found in Ghana and Nigeria. It’s white lump made by pounding yam flour and grounded cassava, and is often eaten with soup. 27532 Schoolcraft, Livonia. (734) 744-7777 or nwannekasplace.squarespace.com. Open noon-7 p.m. Mon. and Wed., noon-9 p.m. Tues. and Thurs.-Sat. and noon-5 p.m. Sun.
Kola Restaurant & Ultra Lounge: Not just a restaurant, Kola is a nightlife destination with weekly events like Soul Thursdays, Tropical Fridays and Afrobeat Night on Saturdays. The menu offers beef and chicken suya, which is thinly sliced meat seasoned with onions, tomato and yaji spice. There’s also a full bar, a variety of soft drinks, and Nigerian beverages like palm juice and Maltina. 32523 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills. (248) 932-5652 or kolalounge.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Wed.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat. and 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sun.
Casablanca: Named after the largest city in Morocco, this Ypsi restaurant specializes in Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes. Choose from bistilla, a chicken pie, or chicken Mhammar roasted with butter, onions, saffron, herbs and fresh ginger, or get both with the Moroccan combo plate for two. 2333 Washtenaw, Ypsilanti. (734) 961-7825 or casablancaypsilanti.com. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 1-8 p.m. Sun.
Windsor: Our neighbors across the border have two Somalian restaurants: Jubba(2000 W. Wyandotte, Windsor) and Somali Restaurant (2127 University, Windsor). Somali cuisine is influenced by a variety of regions and includes beef, chicken, rice and even pasta and samosas.
Pop-ups: There are several chefs in Metro Detroit that operate as a pop-up while they work toward opening brick-and-mortar restaurants. Kitchen Ramarj blends Liberian and Mediterranean flavors and pop ups at places like Corktown’s Brooklyn Street Local. YumVillage pop-up and food truck serves West African and Caribbean food like jollof rice and jerk chicken. Until it’s food truck season again, find chef Godwin Ihentuge cooking monthly dinners at Colors Restaurant the last Thursday of each month. Burundi restaurant Baobab Fare is readying to open in West Village after winning a $10,000 grant from Comerica Hatch Detroit. While they ready to open, the husband-and-wife team have been hosting pop-ups around town. Jerk & Jollof is a nightlife pop-up that blends African and Caribbean music, food and culture that most recently took over Saint Andrew’s Hall for a New Year’s Eve event.
Did I leave out a restaurant that you think should be mentioned in this list? Please, let me know.
Take a new approach to holiday leftovers with this sweet Somali tradition
The joy of sharing food with friends and loved ones lies at the heart of the festive season. A longstanding Somali tradition can help guests give back.
Given the communal nature of African families, holiday celebrations often involve a large number of relatives and distant cousins trickling into homes from far away. The families receiving them cook ample food, with the dishes, ingredients, spices, and flavors varying depending on the culture. Despite the fact that everyone is expected to finish what he or she is served at the lunch or dinner table, even after second or third helpings, copious amounts of food often remains.
Among the Somali community, food is never thrown away. Leftovers are stored to eat for breakfast or lunch the next day. Another custom is to pack the food into containers and send them away with guests. Often, guests will return this kind act by sending the containers back filled with sweet delicacies and desserts.
One of these delicacies is the halwa, a Turkish delight-like sweet dish made with sugar, cornstarch, oil, nutmeg. and cardamom. There are variations of halwa across the world—the word itself means “sweet” in Arabic. Another desert that is gifted is kac kac, or Somali donuts, sprayed with powdered sugar. These are often eaten as snacks with sweet Somali tea.
This practice of giving back after receiving something is an extension of the traditional code of hospitality known as martisoor, which ensures that strangers and travelers are welcomed and never leave empty-handed. The expectation is that this would be reciprocated the next time your family is caught in a difficult situation, whether it’s a simply undercatering for guests at holiday time, or something more drastic, like escaping a famine or drought.
If you’d like to go one step further and give halwa a try yourself, here’s a recipe courtesy of the blog My Somali Food.
Bring two cups of granulated sugar, two cups of light brown sugar, and four cups of water to boil. Mix cornstarch, saffron and half of cup water, and allow it to dissolve. Add the one cup of cornstarch to the mixture. Cook the mixture over medium heat while stirring. As the mixture turns thick, start adding one cup of ghee or oil. This might take about 30 minutes. Continue adding oil when it sticks to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring until the mixture gets separated. When it starts to leave the sides of the pan, add two teaspoons of cardamom and one teaspoon of ground cloves. Put the halwa on a baking sheet. Let it cool. Cut and serve. Sprinkling cashews on top is an option.
And here’s a recipe for Somali donuts from Somali food blog Xawash that yields 24 donuts:
Combine two cups of flour, half a cup of sugar, and one teaspoon of baking powder. Mix well. Add all the wet ingredients: two eggs, half a cup of unsalted, melted butter, and two tablespoons milk. Mix well. Knead well for three minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Roll out the dough to ¼ inch (½ cm) thick. Cut into 24 pieces, then mark the surface by pressing a knife lightly on the dough. Fry in canola oil (at any other time) at 375 ° F / for three to four minutes until golden brown. Use medium heat.