David and I realized a few weeks ago that we have been slacking. We’ve been here since September, but until the end of November, we hadn’t been to any of the many charming little towns in either Castilla y León or Cantabria that are all easily accessible by bus. So when I went up to Santander for Thanksgiving, we hopped on a bus on Saturday morning and went to Santillana del Mar. It’s known as “el pueblo de las tres mentiras, porque ni es santo, ni llano, ni tiene mar.” (The town of the three lies, because it is neither santo (holy), llano (flat), nor near the mar (ocean).) But the town is fairly well-known within the north of Spain, and the name really comes from Santa Juliana, or Santa Iuliana, who is buried in the Colegiata, a church and monastery built in the twelfth century. It’s an incredibly well-preserved medieval town, with very strict laws intended to help maintain the historical nature of the place. For example, only residents and tourists staying in a hotel with a garage may bring a car into the city. It’s a charming place, and I really liked the Colegiata, but after we walked up and around all three streets, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. We also had the misfortune of arriving too late to visit both the monastery and the art museum (the other draw, according to the guidebooks) before they closed for the siesta, and decided to leave on an earlier bus before the museum reopened rather than try and find something to do for an extra three hours while waiting for the bus.
Leaving earlier had one awesome consequence, though. It meant we could proceed, full steam ahead, with our plan to make samosas and chutney for dinner. When we had our Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago, we’d adapted a recipe for quince chutney that turned out wonderfully, but we’d already eaten it all, so we decided to make more. It turned out even better the second time! I think we cooked it over a lower heat, for a longer time, giving all the ingredients a chance to blend together more. Also, we couldn’t find any dried cherries like the original recipe called for, and while we initially just left them out, the second time we subbed in some raisins, which gave the chutney a more jammy texture. Simply delicious.
We’d made samosas once before, with a wonderful group of friends at Brown. Fundamentally, they’re not too complicated: seasoned potatoes sealed inside a thin dough, then fried. But in practice? It is REALLY HARD to get them to turn out the right shape. After watching a video on Manjula’s Kitchen, a site my sister showed me, and then after filling a few, realizing I was still doing it wrong, and watching it again, I finally managed to get the samosas to take the proper shape. And we took pictures! Step-by-step photo instructions! I hope you’re excited.
First, though, I’ll tell you how to make the dough and the filling. For the dough, combine 1/2 c flour, 1/4 t salt, 1 1/2 T oil, and 2T water in a bowl to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it not only comes together but is very smooth and stretchy. At first it won’t seem like enough liquid, but keep working it and it will come together (see picture for texture). Let rest for at least 15 minutes while you work on your filling. Boil your whole, unpeeled potatoes. We used nine small potatoes and a triple batch of dough, and ended up with 24 samosas and a ton of extra filling. I’d suggest two small-to-average-size potatoes for a single batch of dough, if you don’t want to be eating spiced potatoes for the next several days. Once the potatoes are tender (poke them with a knife or fork to check), drain them, and peel them with your fingers as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Dice your peeled potatoes into half-inch cubes and set aside. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet, and add 1/2 t of cumin seeds when it’s hot. Toast for a few seconds, then add 1/2 c frozen peas and 1/4 t garam masala. Stir for maybe 30 seconds, then add potatoes and some salt, maybe a teaspoon or so. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. Once your filling’s cool, you’re ready for the hard part–shaping.