Around The World One Bite At A Time. 1- Uzbek Samsa    

Uzbek Samsa - The flaky pastry with minced lamb filling.
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Meat  filled crisp   dough parcels  are  popular  all  over the  world. These  may look deceptively plain or  as elaborate as a  Victorian dress. Call them  empanada or   sambusa or   samosa or  meat pie  or  fried dumplings  or  samsa ,  one bite   and  it  becomes  abundantly  clear why they are  so popular.  These are  filling , delicious  and  perfect  as a  an  on the  go snack.  No matter  what  shape they come in ,  one  thing you  can  be  sure of – they all taste delicious !

Uzbek Samsa - The flaky pastry with minced lamb filling.

Samsas  are  meat filled  baked  bites  that  are  popular  in  Central   Asia.  Uzbek Samsa, the one pictured  here,  is usually made  with  lamb.  The  filling  is  ground lamb  with generous amount of  fat , onions, and  a  dash of   spices.   It is encased  in a  flaky  dough  wrapping  that  resembles   puff  pastry  but  not  quite.  This here is  definitely not  diet  food.

These  are  distantly  related  to  the Indian  Samosa. We  love   samosa ,  the potato   filled,  dough covered , deep  fried  triangles  of  awesomeness   that   are best  when made  by Punjabi  friends.  It is always  finger linking  good, but I digress.

Unlike  samosa,   samsas are  baked. Traditionally  these  are  baked  in  a  barrel  oven   called  tandyr  ( tandoor  of  the  Indian  sub continent).   The  baking  surface  of  these  oven  are  the  inside  walls  of the  barrel.   You  either  stick  food  to the  wall or  insert   food into a  metal skewer and  introduce  to the   oven  to  bake  at  high   temperatures.

Uzbek Samsa Dough

This here  is the  cross section of  the  samsa  dough.   The layers are  thicker  and  fewer  than  puff pastry , but  it is  much  easier  to   make. The  amount  of  ghee used   here is  on the lighter  side –  but  not  by much.

Making  a  lighter  version  does  not  mean  loss  of  flavor  though.  Often  times  the  amount  of  fat  in a  traditional  dish is  directly proportional to the  lifestyle  needs  of   the  region.  I am   in  a  warmer  climate  and  not  training  for  triathlons …  so  I  do not need  as  many calories in  my diet.     This   may not  be  the  most  authentic  samsa  you get  out  there  on a  street  corner  in  Uzbekistan , but  it is  darn  delicious !

Uzbek Samsa - The flaky pastry with minced lamb filling.

When  rolled  out  this pastry  shows  the  distinct  layers.  The layers  in this  case  are  meant  to overlap a bit  like  the Lachha  paratta . When  cooked  these separate a  little  but do not  puff up like  the puff pastry sheets.  Check out  the  video for  more  details  on shaping.

I am not  very good   with  making  samosas , partially because  my triangles  have  a tendency to  develop ears.  Bunny ears in  samosas, are not  fun to eat at  all.   Samsa  is  not  fried and  the   dough  after baking  becomes  flaky   and  crispy.   In fact  you could  just  bake  the  circles  in the  picture  above  as  it  is  and  serve as  a  delicious  bread.  As  it  bakes    layers  separate   giving   the  samsa a  distinct  flaky look.

From  what  I understand  the   traditional  recipes  have a  meat  and onion  filling   flavored  with cumin.  I loved  this  part  but  there are  two other  flavors  that  I love   with lamb – mint  and  garlic . So these  two  went  into the  filling  as  well.  For a  more  authentic  version  leave  these  out.

I usually  do not  find  ground  lamb  in the   butcher  shop  here .  So I  grind  my own –   do not  use very lean  cuts.  Leave the  fat in –  trim  a  little  if  you must , but   definitely  do not  make  it  extra  lean. The  fat keeps  it   moist  and  adds  more  flavor  to the  filling.

Uzbek Samsa - minced lamb filling.

There are a  lot  of  onions in this  recipe ,   in fact  it  will look like  there is  more  onion than  lamb.  The  filling  is  mixed  together  and  cooked  inside  the pastry shell.   The  filling  is  raw and  gets  cooked  fully in the  oven.  All  that  onion  keeps  the  lamb  moist and  delicious  and  ensures  that the filling does  not dry out.

Brush the  samsas  with a light  egg wash  before  placing in  the oven.  You  could  sprinkle  sesame  seeds or  onion seeds on top, but   I like to have visible  flaky layers.

 

Uzbek Samsa - The flaky pastry with minced lamb filling.

Lamb is  by no means my favorite  meat –  but  loved this.   The pastry crust  is  flaky and  crunchy  and  the filling  moist  and  delicious  without making  the  crust  soggy.

So here is  the  recipe  to make  these lovely uzbek  samsas .

Uzbek Samsa
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Resting time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 45 mins
 

 A delicious meat pie  made  with minced  lamb and  onions.  The  crust  is flaky and  crunchy   while the  meat  filling  is  moist and  delicious.

Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Central Asian
Servings: 6
Author: Syama
Ingredients
For the Pastry Cover
  • 2 C AP Flour Unbleached
  • 1 C Warm Water As Needed
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Ghee Clarified Butter
For Filling
  • 1 lb Minced lamb Not extra lean 15- 30% fat
  • 3 Medium Onions Finely chopped
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds Lightly crushed
  • 2 Tbsp Mint Leaves Chopped finely
  • 1 Tsp Minced Garlic
Other Ingredients
  • 1/4 C Ghee More if needed
  • 1 Egg For Egg Wash
Instructions
Make the Dough
  1. Heat the water to warm. Mix the flour and salt together. Add the ghee and knead using warm water (stand mixer about 4 to 5 minutes). The dough should be soft and very pliable. Form into a ball, cover and set aside to rest for 20 minutes  to 1  hour.

  2. Divide the dough into at least 3 equal portions .
  3. Lightly dust a work surface and roll out one portion of  the  dough  into a thin rectangle (2 to 3 mm thickness) .

  4. Generously spread  some  ghee  all over  the  rectangle  with a  spoon orr pastry  brush .

  5. Roll out the next portion of dough into a similar  rectangle . Place it on top of the first rectangle. Brush liberally with ghee and repeat the process with the remaining portion(s).

  6. Roll the  stacked rectangle starting at  the longer edge to form a log. Wrap the log in a plastic wrap or parchment and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Make the filling
  1. Finely chop the onions. Take 3 to 4 cups of chopped onions and add to the minced lamb. Add all the remaining ingredients for the filling . Mix everything together until uniform.
Shape Samsa
  1. Remove dough from the fridge. Slice into about 18 to 20 equal pieces. Liberally flour the work surface. Take each dough disc and flatten it using your palm (or a thin rolling pin) to a circle of about 4 inch diameter. The edges should be thinner than the center.
  2. Divide the filling into as many equal portions as the dough discs.
  3. Place one portion in the center of a disc. Imagine a triangle around the filling . Pick up two side of the imaginary triangle and start pinching them close to the center.
  4. Pick up the third side and close all sides by pinching. All three sides should meet at the center.. (see video ).

Bake
  1. Pre heat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with the oven rack in the center.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or coat with oil . Place the samsas on the tray with the seam sides facing down . 

  3. Beat the egg with 1 tsp water to make the egg wash . Brush the  tops of the samsas  with the egg wash .

  4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown .
  5. Transfer to a cooling rack . Serve warm .
Recipe Notes
  • Divide the dough into more portions to get more layers .Roll out the dough as thin as possible .
  • If the ghee is solid , warm it lightly so that it is spreadable and not warm/bot.
  • When  rolling  the  discs stop and  return to the  fridge  if  the  ghee  starts  to  ooze out  of  the layers.
  • Leave out the mint and garlic and add a pinch of coriander for more authentic taste.
  • Beef is a  good  substitute for lamb here. 

 

 

Check out  this  article  from  central  Asia  travel on  Uzbek Samsa.

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Uzbek Samsa - The flaky pastry with minced lamb filling.


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