Of all the time I spent with her, my memories of time spent samosa wrapping with Noorbanu Nimji will be the sweetest and most enduring. All this week I’ve been sharing some of my favourite recipes from the book we wrote together – A Spicy Touch; Family Favourites from Noorbanu Nimji’s Kitchen. I saved my all-time favourite for last.
There are so many versions of samosas. Most are made with pre-made packaged dough that’s a bit thick and tough. Most fillings are high on potato filling and low on taste. Leave it to Noorbanu to disrupt the traditional and take samosas to a new level of culinary excellence. This is how it came about.
Sometime after Noorbanu arrived in Canada, a relative in Vancouver told her that they’d tried samosas with spring roll wrappers instead of the usual dough. Noorbanu tried it, developed a wrapping technique to ensure they would hold together and everyone fell in love with her creation. Of course, her fillings were also special as she made sure the meat was as fine a mince as possible. She also knew how to balance the flavour so it would pop with each crispy bite. I hope you enjoy this and give it a try sometime.
I’ve taught a lot of samosa wrapping classes with Noorbanu and sat for hours in her kitchen wrapping them for special occasion parties. Sometimes I’d invite a friend to join us but mostly it was just Noorbanu and me. We’d talk about her early life in Africa, about family, travel, faith, life and death. We’d laugh a lot and cry sometimes too. And, all the while we’d fill and fold, fold and fill. The trays would gradually fill and we’d pack them away in the freezer. Noorbanu always made sure I tasted some before or took some with me when I left.
Now that the days are getting colder, one day soon, I’ll fry up the filling, cut up the wrappers and sit and wrap about three dozen myself. I know I’m going to look up across my table hoping to see her smiling face looking back at me. She won’t be there. I know. But, with every fold I make, she lives on, she lives on.
Photos to go with the instructions:Print
Samosa Wrapping With Noorbanu Nimji
Samosas are an all-time favourite Indian snack and Noorbanu’s recipe is famous for its taste and texture. Each bite starts with an assertive crunch—derived from the inventive use of spring roll wrappers instead of traditional samosa dough—and finishes with the well-balanced spicing that is the trademark of a great Indian cook.
Stock up on spring roll wrappers and keep them in your freezer to pull out and thaw in the fridge overnight (or for a few hours on the counter) when you want to make a batch.
Make your meat filling a day ahead – you’ll be glad you broke up the work involved in this recipe.
Keep all of the pastry—after cutting and separating it—covered in between damp kitchen cloths. Otherwise, it will dry out too quickly to work with.
Gather a friend to help.
Reward yourselves by frying up a few of these delectable treats before you tuck the batch into the freezer for future use.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 36 samosa
- Category: Appetizers/Snacks
- Method: Frying
- Cuisine: Indian
To make the beef filling
2¼ lbs lean ground beef
4 Tablespoons water
2 cups finely chopped yellow onion – divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Garlic Paste (page )
2 teaspoons Ginger Paste (page )
2 teaspoons Green Chilli Paste (page ) or Sambal Oelek
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Indian chilli powder
1 cup finely chopped green onion (cut in ½ lengthwise first)
½ cup finely cut coriander leaves
1½ teaspoons Garam Masala (page )
Salt to taste
1 (or more) seeded and minced jalapeños (optional)
For the Paste and Pastry
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons water
1 package (30 sheets – 10 by 10 inch) frozen spring roll wrappers
Tip: We like the TYJ brand of spring roll wrappers that are available at many Asian grocers
Make a paste by combining the flour and water in a small bowl and stirring briskly until it becomes smooth, thick and glue-like.
For the meat filling:
1. Put the ground beef in a colander and remove any visible blood from the exterior of the meat by rinsing it briefly under cold running water (removing visible blood helps achieve a fine crumbled texture and a more enjoyable samosa filling).
2. Heat a large fry pan on medium heat and add the ground beef with the 4 tablespoons of water.
3. Stir continuously, breaking up the meat, until evenly browned and finely crumbled.
4. Drain the meat and return to the pan with the first ½ cup of yellow onion and the salt, ginger, garlic and chilli pastes, lemon juice, turmeric, cumin, and Indian chilli powder. Stir until the meat is coated and dry.
5. Cool the mixture completely and add the remaining yellow onions, green onions, coriander leaves and Garam Masala. Tip: It is important to wait until the meat mix is cool so that it does not pull the water out of the onion and coriander.
6. Adjust the salt and, if desired, add the optional jalapeño. Keep in mind that the pastry wrappers tone down the overall spiciness of the meat mixture.
For the samosa wrappers:
1. Thaw the pastry in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for a few hours (never in a microwave). Cut into 3 equal pieces.
2. Separate 18 pieces from 1 pile and cut them in half to yield 36 short pieces. Put all of the long pieces into 1 pile and cut the ends at a steep angle.
3. Pull all of the long and short pieces apart carefully and then collate the long ones in groups of 2. Store the wrappers in 2 separate damp kitchen cloths. Otherwise, they become too dry to work with.
4. Place 1 short piece in the center of 1 set of 2 long pieces (top), then fold the top right end down until it forms a diamond shape on the wrapper underneath as shown. Pinch the top of the diamond shape to hold it in place while picking up the rest of the diamond—as a unit. Fold it up, to the left and onto the wrapper lying underneath.
5. Lay the diamond onto the part of the wrapper lying underneath to form a conical pocket and release the finger that was holding the upper corner in place.
6. Pick the folded conical wrapper up in your non-dominant hand. Hold the back of the pocket against your palm. Use your thumb in front to hold the flaps open. Tip: At this point you should look inside the cone to make sure the corner fold was tight and there is no hole in the bottom. If you can see through, you’ll need to refold it until it is tight. This is important because it will prevent leakage of filling during the frying process.
Fill the pocket with about 2 ½ teaspoons of the filling mixture of your choice.
7. Apply paste to the lower inner flap.
8. Pull the lower inner flap down snugly onto the samosa – making sure the corner it creates is also tightly closed and then apply paste to the remaining outer flap.
9. Pull both the outer flaps onto the body of the samosa triangle – making sure the last corner is also tightly closed.
10. Separate the 2 outer flaps and apply more paste between them.
11. Pull the last flap down tightly. You should have a full but not bulging triangle with 3 tightly sealed corners.
Tip: Stack the filled samosas in rows on a baking tray – they don’t need to be covered at this point. If not eating immediately, pack them into plastic containers (so they won’t get crushed in your freezer) with wax paper between the layers. They freeze well for up to 6 months but ours usually get eaten long before that. When you are ready to eat them deep-fry* directly from frozen (do not thaw them first).
12. Samosas ready to eat. Enjoy as a snack or starter with your favourite chutneys. We like Ambli Ni Chutney, Coriander Chutney, hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
*For deep-frying the samosas
3 litres sunflower oil
Heat the oil in a wok or deep fryer at 375°F and deep-fry about 10 samosas at a time until golden brown – about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking tray.
I recognize that kitchen! That’s where I met you and Mrs Nimji for the first time. I worked for Chef Judy and Meez. She was so wonderful, and so were you. I loved working retail at the Lakeview location when Mrs Nimji’s food tour came through! I always got the tastiest homemade chai tea from her. And the SAMOSAS! And cookbooks. Both of you so generous with your love of good food and sharing your knowledge. I feel so grateful to have been a part of that world. My fondest memories of Calgary food culture with you, Mrs Nimji, Chef Judy and the rest of the Meezians. Beautiful legacy ❤️
Laurie! So great to hear from you. That kitchen was a dream. And, having you there made everything flow so wonderfully. Weren’t those great days? Noorbanu loved it and she had such incredible energy. So glad you were a part of those wonderful day long cooking adventures we used to do! With appreciation, Karen