Bratty bambino goes spicy (sort of)
Take a picky Italian-born 4 year-old, add a mother who wants to get back to her Indian culinary roots, throw in a little curry powder and what do you get? “Ooooh spicy! Mommy, I don’t like SPICY!” Cut to one disappointed mommy turning on the stove to prepare her daughter’s favourite: pasta in bianco (plain pasta with butter).
I’ve been living in Italy for 12 years and while I absolutely love the food here, sometimes I crave a dish of my mom’s fiery beef curry or dosas or biriyani. And since Indians in Italy are few and far between, we don’t have a lot of friends from the old country we can mooch a meal off of nor are there many decent South Asians restaurants. So, I had to learn on my own, getting advice from my mom over the phone or studying her craft in person whenever we met up. I say craft because she can whip up an amazingly fresh, delicious and bum-burning dish with anything she happens to have in the fridge.
I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t stand Indian food when I was a kid. Chef Boyardee was a culinary god in my eyes. Ronald McDonald? Better than Bocuse. It was only when I left home for university that I felt those first pangs of spicy longing. I would visit my parents’ friends in Montreal just to get that taste of home. Then a few years later when I was living in Paris, I mustered up enough courage to tentatively cook my first Indian meal. I cheated and used Patak’s curry pastes but my dishes were hits. I made some misses too but I gradually improved over the years and can now safely say that I can cook a proper Indian dinner… for adults. Kids are a whole ‘nother ball game.
As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter Bellie is as finicky as Morris the Cat. She is a sworn enemy of vegetables and actually threw up her dinner the other day because there was a microscopic piece of mushroom in her risotto. So you can imagine how difficult it’s been introducing curries and spices to her diet. I thought she would have been used to them from the womb but I was wrong. I really want her to get used to the tastes that I grew up with, to become familiar with the cuisine of her ancestors, because I believe food is a visceral way of getting in touch with your heritage.
So I tried a different tactic. I decided to take the tastes she already likes and morph them into Indian dishes. Bellie loves puff pastry and potatoes so my first experiment was a kid-friendly samosa. I improvised a lot because my son decided to wake up during my precious cooking time. But the samosas turned out surprisingly well and were easy to make.
Here’s the samosa recipe:
4 medium potatoes, chopped into big cubes (I leave the skin on while cooking but it can be peeled beforehand, too)
250 gr mixed vegetables (peas, zucchini, carrots, beans or whatever is in season)
400 gr. can of chick peas
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp of Mom’s special curry masala (made with 1 tbsp cumin seed, 4-5 cardamom pods and a 5 cm stick of cinnamon, ground to a fine powder in a spice mill)
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
salt (to taste)
2 sheets of puff pastry (230 gr. each)
Place chopped potatoes in pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt. Heat to boiling. About 7 minutes after the water starts boiling, add the mixed vegetables. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add drained can of chick peas. Boil potato, veg and chick pea mixture for 2 minutes, then drain. Let cool for about 10 minutes then blend mixture (with a traditional or immersion blender) until ingredients become the consistency of mashed potatoes.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C.
Heat oil on medium-low in a skillet. Add the curry masala and cayenne pepper (if you’re feeling daring!) and cook for 1 minute. Add the blended potato mixture to the skillet. Add lemon juice. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
Cut puff pastry into 10cmx10cm squares. After the potato mixture has cooled down 10-15 minutes, place a tbsp in the middle of each pastry square. Dampen the edges of each square with water. Bring edges together to form a triangle shape, if possible. Place samosas in a parchment lined cookie sheet or baking pan and put in oven. Cook until golden, around 15-20 minutes.
As you can see from the picture below, my samosas didn’t look that perfect. But I can honestly say that both kids ate them up, vegetables, curry and all!
If you like this one I have my mom’s extra-spicy beef curry recipe waiting in the wings. But only if you ask nice! It’s an ancient Keralan secret.