One of the many problems of the 365 day, out-of-season provision of fruit and vegetables by our supermarkets is that it has led to many of us losing our understanding and appreciation of truly seasonal produce.
The result is that we have lots of bland and inferior produce flown from halfway across the world to sate our apparent demand for courgettes in March or green beans in December instead of fresh, organic, locally grown seasonal produce. This unsustainable conveyor belt of year-round global production and transport has also meant that some of our traditional home-grown vegetables have become increasingly neglected by the consumer.
One such vegetable is the cauliflower. It’s a vegetable in which the UK is easily self-sufficient and yet UK seasonal sales of cauliflower have dropped by 35% over the past decade as we shoppers are instead diverted towards the supermarket’s “steady state” shelves of mainly imported produce.
The season for British cauliflower, when it is at its best, is between July and September. It’s not the easiest of vegetables to grow as it has a habit of “bolting” in extremes of temperature and during dry spells, but given a little love and attention it is very rewarding to grow.
The florets of the cauliflower are known as curds, and these are rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, manganese, potassium and magnesium and vitamins B, C, and K. Cauliflower is also packed with antioxidants, which have been shown to help reduce cancer risk.
Cauliflower always works brilliantly with Indian spices, in dishes such as Aloo Gobi and pakora. Here I’ve used it in samosas, a classic Indian subcontinent snack food which actually originated in the Middle East over a thousand years ago.
From the time I first tried them in my youth I have always loved samosas. Indeed, it was at a summer “samosa party”, hosted annually by friends, that my partner Sara and I met for the second time (having once gone out together briefly when we were a lot younger, some 24 years earlier). Sara and I have been together ever since, and as a result I have an even greater fondness for samosas.
Making samosas is a little time-consuming but very rewarding. Once you get to grips with the technique you do become quicker. Any samosas that you don’t intend to cook immediately can be frozen for up to three months.
350 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
75 g vegetable oil (I used groundnut)
150 ml water
200 g organic cauliflower, washed and broken into small florets
175 g organic potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
80 g freshly shelled peas (if not available, use frozen)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 whole red chilli
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
500 ml vegetable oil (groundnut is best)
1. For the samosa pastry, Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl, preferably on an electric mixer. Add the oil and mix, then gradually add the water until a smooth dough is formed. You may not need to use all of the water. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge.
3. Now for the filling. Place the chilli, garlic and ginger in a blender or pestle and mortar and work into a fairly smooth paste. Put the potatoes, without peeling them, into boiling water for fifteen minutes, preferably in the base of a steamer. While they are boiling, place the cauliflower florets on top to steam for just 3 minutes. Remove, drain and refresh the cauliflower under cold water. Drain the potatoes and, when cool enough, remove the skins and chop into roughly 1 cm cubes.
4. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large pan and when hot add the black mustard seeds and the cumin seeds. They should start to sizzle immediately. Stir for 30 seconds before adding the asafoetida. Again, stir for 30 seconds and then add the onions. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for around 5 minutes until the onion has softened.
5. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, peas, salt, ground coriander and the chilli, ginger and garlic mixture to the pan. Cook for a further five minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat, add the garam masala and the chopped coriander and set to one side to cool.
6. To construct individual samosas, divide the pastry into equal pieces, each weighing around 50g. Using a rolling pin, Roll each piece in turn one into a circular shape approximately 15cm in diameter. Cut each circle in half along the diameter to form two equal semi-circles.
7. Now you need to work slowly and methodically. Have to hand a small bowl of water and a pastry brush. Take your first semi-circle, and with the pastry brush apply a light dab of water from one edge of the straight side towards the centre. Now fold the pastry in half, overlapping the straight edges so that the wet side “glues” to the other. You are trying to form a triangular “purse”, so you will need to keep a couple of fingers inside the “purse” while you are doing this to prevent the insides sticking together. Once you have sealed the edge, manipulate the samosa so that this seal is a line in the centre of the purse as it faces you (as in the photograph above) Next, place about three teaspoons of the filling into the samosa. Don’t overfill as you need to seal the top over, which you do in the same way, by wetting the top inside edge of the samosa and folding it over on to the front.
8. Repeat this process until you have used up all the pastry and/or filling. Place the samosas on a flat baking tray and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them. If you don’t intend to use them all, freeze any excess samozas at this stage.
9. Pour the oil into a pan over a high heat. Once it is hot, carefully lower the samosa in a few at a time. Depending on the size of your pan, and how many samosas you are cooking, you may need to cook them in batches. Cook for about 2 minutes before carefully turning them over, cooking for another 2 minutes, until they are a crisp, pale golden colour all over. Drain on kitchen paper.
12. Serve with some mango and/or lime chutney.