When the craving for exciting, complex, rich Indian flavours comes calling I reach into my spice cabinet to complement the legumes, nuts, and veggies so prevalent in this plant-forward cuisine. The opposite of lazy cooking to us North Americans, flavours from our favourite Indian restaurants are seemingly impossible to capture at home. Though much of what we taste and experience here is an adaptation of the original dishes prepared traditionally, I can’t help but crave the connection to the culture and feel compelled to celebrate in the feast!
Inspiration struck when I was savouring the deep, rich, flavourful food, known as the samosa from my favourite local Indian restaurant. This recipe originally named the Fully-loaded Spring Samosa, I recognize that the food I created is indeed inspired by this traditional snack but by no means earns the title of a true samosa. As a studied and proud Holistic Nutritionist I realize the luxury of a samosa is something to be celebrated in all its glory but also is not health-supportive for every body. My New Roots is here to share and celebrate flavours, people, culture, and cuisine in a way that helps our physical bodies flourish while also preserving flavours and food memories we hold so dear.
As I thought about preserving the beauty of this perfect little package in a way that made it more accessible for the home cook, the plant-based, and the gluten-intolerant, the mode of cooking (frying) and the dough (wheat-based) were things I set out to adapt so more people could join in! Thinking about out how to make the dough thin, flaky and crispy without deep-frying, and gluten-free without any highly processed ingredients was daunting to say the least. I knew that I was entering into a multi-attempt recipe project (which is at least a day-long venture) when all I wanted was to bite into a hot and spicy, crispy samosa filled with flavour powerful enough to transport. Oh, life is hard (*insert eye roll here*).
Armed with inspiration and a passion to share my love of the samosa with My New Roots followers, before I knew it, I was rooting around in my kitchen awaiting that “aha moment” when it dawned on me: rice paper wraps!
Using rice paper to wrap a deliciously spiced Indian-style filling not only eliminates gluten, but also the need to deep fry. The rice paper becomes crisp in the oven with the smallest brush of melted oil (ghee is delicious and authentic to the Indian flavours, but coconut oil works great for a vegan version). The other bonus is that they are oh so beautiful! The rice paper is transparent, revealing the gorgeous colours and textures of the filling inside—talk about a celebration! Although these are very distant relatives to traditional samosas, I am super pleased with the results and hope you will be too!
Deep-frying can be deeply troubling
I did a fun little experiment today and looked up “the healthiest oils for deep frying” online. I went on a few forums and saw that olive oil remains to be the “healthy” oil of choice for frying. I honour and respect that many European countries build their daily diets on olive oil but I cannot shy away from sharing that many harmful effects bubble up along with the heating of fats.
But why is deep-frying so not-good-for-you? It’s because heating fats above their respective burning temperature (also known as the “smoke point”) causes fats to decompose. Fat decomposition causes chemical changes that not only reduce flavour and nutrient content, but more detrimentally create harmful cancer-causing compounds, called free radicals. You can easily tell when a fat has reached it smoke point simply by placing a bit of it in an empty pot, cranking up the heat and waiting for it to turn to a gaseous vapour. Even just inhaling those vapours is known to be harmful, so in your everyday life, I recommend you avoid heating delicate fats like olive oil.
If you are going to be doing any deep-frying or sautéing at high heat, remember to use a high-temperature stable cooking fat, such as coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter). These are the two oils that I cook with exclusively. Ghee has more flavour, but if I want to make a vegan version of a recipe, I’ll use an aroma-free, expeller-pressed/refined coconut oil.
These little treats would make a delicious appetizer for an Indian-inspired meal, but they are also a great everyday snack all on their own. I urge you to make the Sweet n’ Spicy Mint Chutney that accompanies the recipe, as this with the samosas is a match made in heaven! The samosa filling is rather salty, so the sweet-heat from the chutney is a fabulous balancer. The chutney is also delicious folded into a rice or quinoa salad, which is what I made the next day for my lunch. I threw in some chickpeas, freshly grated carrots, spring onion and lots of fresh lime juice. Delish! And so easy to make.
I searched online and found that there were a few folks who had experienced a similar brainwave to use the rice paper wrapper and was happy to have received the memo! Folding these treats can be a bit tricky and I found this video of a woman making these with rice paper too. (Or this video) Thanks Kittee! She is one groovy lady with wonderful instructions. Although our fillings and chutneys are different, our processes are almost identical and you’ll be able to see how she folds the wrappers, which may be helpful!
8 round rice paper wrappers (for spring rolls) 8.5” / 22cm
You can also use 16 wrappers and double them up for extra strength
knob of ghee or coconut oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
¾ tsp. sea salt
½ cup unsalted unroasted cashews
¼ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
3 medium carrots
1 ½ / 250g cup green peas
1 cup chickpeas
2 cups / 75g firmly packed fresh baby spinach
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
½ Tbsp. mustard seeds
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. coriander
¼ tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
cayenne (to taste)
1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast cashews until lightly golden. Remove from heat, roughly chop, and set aside. In the same skillet lightly toast coconut until golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Dice onion and carrots to about the size of the peas.
3. Heat a knob of oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to “pop” add the onion and the remaining spices and minced ginger. Cook five minutes, then add the garlic. Cook a couple minutes, then add carrots. Stir to coat with spices, cook five minutes, add peas and chickpeas. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, coconut and cashews.
4. Pour a couple inches or water into a large flat-bottomed bowl or shallow dish. One at a time, place a rice paper wrap in the water and let soften, just until it becomes pliable (this step is important! Do not let the paper become completely soggy or the rice paper will split while baking. There should still be some pattern visible on the surface). Remove from water and place rice paper on a clean, flat surface. Using a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter, slice the rice paper circle in half. On both halves, place a generous scoop of the filling. Fold the bottom corner about a third of the way up the round side of the half (see photo), followed by the top corner to meet the base of the fold you just made, creating a triangle. Fold the round edge up onto the top of the package to seal it, and flip it over. This is now the top of the samosa. Repeat steps with the remaining rice paper and filling.
5. Melt about a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil in a small saucepan. Lightly brush the tops of the samosas with a tiny bit of oil (this will create a nice crisp crust). Sprinkle with coconut if desired.
6. Place samosas in a 400°F / 200°C oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and flip over to crisp on the other side. Bake for another 10 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and serve hot with the Sweet n’ Spicy Mint Chutney.
Sweet n’ Spicy Mint Chutney
2 cups firmly packed mint leaves (no stems)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 Medjool dates
1 fresh serrano chili (or cayenne pepper to taste)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
salt to taste
1. Wash mint leaves well to remove nay dirt. Spin dry.
2. In a food processor pulse garlic, ginger, and chili to finely mince. Add dates, mint leaves, lime juice and olive oil. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste. Add more olive oil to thin, if necessary.
3. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge for four days.
I hope you all get lazy and make these too!