My first taste of samsa was during a road trip in Kyrgyzstan. My driver and guide pulled over to the side of the road, and stopped at a very specific samsa vendor. There were many lined up along the road, but the guide told me that you need to choose carefully or you might be sick. They handed me a bag with two hot samsas inside. I had a bite and it was amazing! My first samsa was simple- a meat and potato mixture with spices in a crispy pastry. Later in the trip, I had different varieties including potato and pumpkin. This recipe for samsa comes from Friends of Kyrgyzstan. I have simplified the instructions and modified the recipe slightly. Their instructions on how to get different layers in the dough are very good, so have a look at their site.
For those in London, there is a food stall selling samsa at the Mercato Metropolitano near Elephant and Castle. I was surprised to see them there. I had one meat and one pumpkin samsa and the flavours definitely reminded me of Kyrgyzstan. The stall is called Oshpaz and is advertised as Uzbekh food. However, I think the recipe for samsa may be similar across the -stans.
1 pkg (500g) block of puff pastry dough
1-2 Tbsp oil
1 egg, beaten (optional)
1/2 pound ground meat
1/4 c diced onions
1/3 c finely diced raw potato
1 clove crushed/minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds (put them between parchment, paper, or foil and roll over them with a rolling pin)
Preheat oven to 190C or 375F
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Then spray or brush with oil
First, in a mixing bowl, prepare the filling of your choice (meat, pumpkin or potato). Mix all ingredients well and season to taste.
Next, sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface. Open the puff pastry dough and flour both sides. Then cut the dough in half, parallel to the longer side. Cut each of those halves into 6 thick bars of dough, cutting parallel to the short side.
Turn them onto the cut side, pinch the dough like an accordion a few times so that the surface has zig-zags. This is to make a layered design for the dough.
Roll each out into a square around 4 inches on each side. Then fill each with about 2 tablespoons of filling. Gather the dough from the left and the right (like a paper fan) to the middle over the filling and seal together like a little purse.
Place each samsa, sealed side down, onto the oiled pan.
If you like a shinier, crunchy pastry, you can use a pastry brush to coat all exposed sides of the samsa with the beaten egg. I prefer not to use the egg as that reminds me more of the samsa I had while visiting Kyrgyzstan.
Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool for a minute before removing from the pan. Serve warm.
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