Sambousek- the Middle Eastern brother of Samosa!

Edited1Sambousek! As soon as I read the word aloud and looked a picture of this savoury from the Mediterranean Mezze Platter, I said to myself; Aha!! A brethren of the very popular street snack Samosa- is it! I was delighted when my first reaction was proven right!

The Syrian Foodie says ‘Sambousek is one of these words that is very widely used but it doesn’t have a specific meaning. In essence it is meat filled pies served as a starter, part of mezze spread or a side dish. Sambousek is a very popular dish across the Middle East. The popularity of the dish goes all the way to India. You must have guessed that samosa is a variation of the name’ 😀
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These can be fried or baked. I baked them and did not miss the fried version at all! And to add to the joy- these are wholegrain, made from coarse Punjabi aata. If this isn’t snacking heaven- what is!

I filled the Sambouseks with a feta cheese and spinach filling. Play around and use anything you like for the filling, sweet or savoury. I adapted the recipe from Natalie Ward’s wonderful vegetarian blog, where she has made them with fig and feta.
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I made 35 small Sambousek with this recipe
For the pastry/outer covering of the sabousek

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour/aata
4 Tbsp Oilve oil
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp fennel seeds/saunf
1 tsp cumin/jeera
½ cup warm water to knead the dough

Add salt and olive oil to the flour in a large bowl.
Crush the fennel and cumin slightly with a rolling pin (to release the aroma and flavours better) and add to the flour.
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Mix well and knead well to get a soft and supple dough. Transfer to an airtight box or cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the Filling
A small bunch of spinach, washed and chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ tsp olive oil
100 gms feta cheese ( Can substitute with a mixture of processed cheese and paneer/ cottage cheese if feta not available) cut into small thin rectangles

Heat the oil and add the onion and garlic.
Once the onion becomes transparent add the spinach and cook till all the water evaporated. Season with just a pinch of salt and some pepper. (The feta is salty enough to balance the flavour so the spinach needs very little salt)
Let cool completely.

To get the Sambousek together

Divide the dough into two.
On a well floured surface roll out about 3mm thick and cut out circles.
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Place a spoonful of spinach filling in the centre and top with a piece of feta.
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Moisten the edges of the dough circle and bring two opposite ends up and seal.
IMG_5593Now bring the other two opposite ends up and seal. (A gujiya maker can be used, but I really found this shape very cute J )
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Transfer them to a greased baking dish and brush the sambousek with olive oil.
IMG_5596Bake in a pre heated oven at 180C till they brown. Brush very lightly with oilve oil or butter and serve hot.
(These can be cling filmed and stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Take them out ten minutes before the baking and proceed.)
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Serve with Tzaziki and Harissa yogurt dip.
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Harissa Paste and Harissa Yogurt Dipping Sauce

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Harissa is another sauce I knew nothing about till recently just like the Tzatziki. And just like the Tzatziki, reading up made me think of a chutney which is a staple in Rajasthani households –  ‘Lehsun/Garlic ki chutney’!
The same method  i.e. soaking of chillies and grinding with garlic and spices- quite a few of them that I use in my kitchen on a daily basis like the coriander and the cumin. The pungent taste and the versatility.The only difference being that lehsun ki chutney is cooked in oil and Harissa is stored under a layer of oil.

 The Kitchn says ‘This Tunisian chile sauce is a fantastic shortcut to spice up a meal and can be used with everything from meat to vegetables, couscous, roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, as a dip for bread … the list is truly endless’

Any kind of chillies may be used. For a less pungent paste, add some charred red peppers along with chillies.
I made it with Byadgi chilli and it came out nice and just the right level of pungent.
A combination of red peppers and chilli peppers may also be used.
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10-12 red chillies soaked in boiling hot water for 30 mins
10 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp caraway
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
salt to taste
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil plus more to cover if storing
1 tsp lemon juice
Remove the stems of the chillies   and soak for 30 mins in hot water. Store the water and use in case needed while blending the paste.
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Remove the seeds.
Dry roast the caraway, coriander and cumin. Let cool.
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In a food processor add the chillies, garlic, tomato, salt, the roasted spices, lemon juice and grind to a thick, coarse paste adding EVOO slowly.
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Store covered with a thin layer of olive oil.
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The paste stays good for a month in the refrigerator.
Keep adding some olive oil as you scoop the paste off the top.

To make a dipping sauce, stir a couple of spoons of the paste into a cup of thick yogurt.
Serve with chips,crackers or like I did, with Sambousek!
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Recipe sourced and adapted from The Kitchn.

Lavash- Crisp Whole wheat Crackers!

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Lavash is a thin flatbread from the Middle East, specifically from Armenia. It can be made soft and used to make wraps and rolls. I made the crisp version, Lavash crackers and served them with Tzatziki and Harissa Yogurt sauce. Lavash crackers are also served as a part of the Mediterranean Mezze Platter.
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In Armenian villages, the dried Lavash is stacked high in layers to be used later, and when the time comes to rehydrate the bread, it is sprinkled with water to make it softer again. In its dry form, left-over Lavash is used in Iran to make quick meals after being rehydrated with water, butter and cheese.
In Kashmir it is known as Lavasa or lavase and is a popular breakfast bread.Lavase pieces with green walnut kernels folded between them are considered a delicacy.

Lavash crackers are really simple to make and can be easily stored for days. Enjoy them as an appetiser with a dipping sauce or just nibble on a couple with your cuppa. They reminded me of the Sesame Thins I had made; only these are the savoury version of those!
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I made them with Aata (whole wheat flour).
(This recipe serves 4)

1 ½ cup Aata/Whole wheat flour (half whole wheat and half all purpose flour may be used)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, a mixture of black and white
1 tsp salt
¼ cup Olive Oil
½ cup water
1 Tbsp oregano or mixed seasoning (optional)

Pre-heat the oven for ten minutes and 180C and grease a baking tray.
Toast the sesame seeds lightly.
Add salt, olive oil and sesame seeds to the flour and rub with your fingers to mix well.
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Add the water slowly and make a soft pliable dough.
Divide into four.
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Roll out really thin, almost see through thin.
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Cut out a circle and slice into triangles.
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Transfer to the greased tray and brush the top with oil.
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Bake till golden and crisp.
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Recipe sourced and adapted from here.


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Muhammara – a Red Pepper and Walnut Dip

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Muhammara, pronounced as moo-hum-mara, is a rich flavoured dip made with walnuts and roasted red pepper. It has a beautiful earthy flavour with a hint of sweetness from the pomegranate molasses and a hit of heat from the paparika and the red chilli powder that go into it. The name actually comes from the red colour of the dip. Muhammara translates to ‘red/reddened’
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Muhammara, along with hummus and Baba Ghanoush, is essentially a part of the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Mezze platter. It is delicious as a sandwich spread too! And an excellent way to feed walnuts to the oh- so-fussy teenagers and kids 😀
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You need
A large red pepper/red capsicum, charred on an open flame (alternatively char it under a hot grill)
½ cup of walnuts, chopped coarse
1 small green chilli, chopped fine
A very small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (can use 2 Tbsp pomegranate juice and ½ tsp sugar instead, but the molasses really add to the depth of the flavour)
2 Tbsp toasted bread crumbs (Toast the bread slices, cool and run them in the blender)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp paparika
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp salt (add more if needed)
1 Tbsp olive oil
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Char the red pepper over an open flame or grill till the peel has black spots.
Peel and cube.
Put all the ingredients into the mixer and blend into a paste. It should not be too fine. A somewhat grainy consistency is what we are looking at. Check and adjust salt or sweetness if needed.
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Serve with nachos, chips, pita fingers or falafels,decorated a sprig of parsley and a tomato or radish rose.
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Recipe adapted from Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen with minor changes. An excellent blog for Lebanese/ Middle Easter  delights.
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