FOOD / Wrapping up the world of pastries: To conclude a two-part series on small savouries, we sample the flamboyant flavours of Mexico, China and India

Last week Europe, this week the rest of the world. I'm still on the subject of small savoury pastries, but I get to travel farther afield this time, to India, China and Mexico - which means that the fillings (or in one case the accompaniment) are more flamboyant.

Whatever the country of origin, however muted and subtle the prevailing tastes, vigorous seasoning is essential for the filling of any savoury pastry. What might seem perfectly adequate in a doughless dish becomes pallid when eaten with a bite of pastry.

The other critical factor for a pastry is moisture. A dry filling makes the eating hard going, regardless of the content. A pastry surround only adds to the penance, when what it should be doing is providing an irresistible contrast.

There are perils, though of a different sort, with excessive damp. Too wet a filling causes problems at an earlier stage. The raw dough sucks up the liquid greedily, turning slimy and sticky if not actually disintegrating.

Aim for a filling that is moist enough to hold together, without little puddles seeping out. If it is uncooked, beware of overdosing on ingredients with a natural high water content (most green vegetables, for instance). If in doubt, cook it first, and let the mixture reduce in the pan.

Aloo samosa

Making the filling for samosas and rolling them up was something I loved doing as a child with my mother. For a long period, samosas filled with potato and peas made regular appearances at mealtimes. I don't think I have made them at all since then, until last week. I won't be leaving it that long again.

Makes 32

Ingredients: For the pastry:

12oz (340g) plain flour

4 1/2 tbs vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

oil for frying

For the potato filling:

5tbs vegetable or sunflower oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 in (1cm) piece fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 level tsp each cumin, fennel and mustard seeds

1tsp coriander seeds, coarsely crushed

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 1/2 lb (675g) potatoes, boiled, peeled and cut into 1/2 in (1cm) cubes

4oz (110g) shelled peas, cooked if fresh, or thawed if frozen

2 green chillies, deseeded, finely chopped

salt and a dash of lemon juice

Preparation: For the pastry, sift the flour with the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the oil, then gradually stir in enough water (about 6fl oz/180ml), drawing in the flour as you do so, to form a firm dough. Knead thoroughly for around 10 minutes. Brush with a little oil, wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Warm the oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Now raise the heat and add the whole spices and stir fry until they begin to jump. Now add the potatoes, peas, turmeric and chillies and fry gently for a further 10 minutes or so un

til the potatoes are patched with brown. Draw off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and salt and leave to cool.

Knead the dough again briefly, then divide into 16 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then roll out on a lightly-floured board to form circles about 6-7in (15-17.5cm) in diameter. Cut each in half.

Brush the long edges of the semicircle with water and roll to form a cone, pinching the overlapped edges together to seal. Place a scant tablespoonful of filling in the cone. Dampen the open ends and press together firmly, so that you end up with a sealed, plump triangle. Continue until all pastry and filling are used up. Deep-fry in oil heated to 300F/150C until evenly browned. Drain briefly on kitchen paper and serve hot.

Chinese pan-stickers

These are, as far as I know, unique in that they combine three methods of cooking - part-fried, then part-boiled/part-steamed - in one. The key to success is to get the pan outrageously hot, so that the pan- stickers don't live up to their name: they shouldn't stick at all.

If you cannot find fresh water chestnuts, use tinned, which are very nearly as good.

Makes 24

Ingredients: For the pastry:

10oz (280g) plain flour

about 8fl oz (240ml) hot water

1/2 tsp salt

a little vegetable or sunflower oil

For the filling:

10oz (280g) minced pork

2tbs soy sauce

1tsp sugar

1tbs dry sherry or rice wine

1tsp cornflour

1tbs sesame oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1tsp grated ginger

5 water chestnuts, finely chopped

Preparation: Sift the flour with the salt and add enough hot water to make a soft dough. Knead, dusting with flour if necessary, until satiny smooth. Cover with a towel and leave to rest for half an hour.

Mix all the filling ingredients, and leave to marinate for half an hour. Roll the dough into a long sausage and cut into 24 pieces. Roll out each piece to make a circle about 3in (7.5cm) in diameter. Place 1/2 tbs of the filling on each one, moisten the edges with water and fold over to form semi-circles. Pinch edges firmly to seal.

Take a wide, heavy frying pan and heat over a high heat until extremely hot (a good 4-5 minutes). Add 2tbs of oil and tilt to coat the base of the pan. Arrange half the pan-stickers in it, snuggling them close together in a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes without disturbing - check the underneaths which should by now be nicely browned. Now add 4fl oz (110ml) water and a little salt, cover and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Uncover, drizzle in a tablespoon of oil, and cook for a final 3 minutes, by which time most of the liquid should have evaporated. Carefully transfer pan-stickers to a serving dish, turning them to show their browned side. Repeat with the remaining pan-stickers.

Tacos de requeson

This disarmingly simple recipe turns out to be extraordinarily good. It's just such a clever combination of flavours and textures, hot and cold. It comes from American food writer Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking (Bantam) which, unfortunately, is hard to get on this side of the Atlantic. She specifies corn tortillas, but I had to settle for flour ones which are more widely available, and they work very well.

Serves 6

Ingredients: For the sauce:

3fl oz (85ml) lime juice (2-3 limes)

1oz (30g) trimmed radishes, finely chopped

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 green chilli, deseeded, finely chopped

1tbs chopped coriander leaves

salt

For the tacos:

8oz (225g) ricotta

6 x 5in (12.5cm) flour or corn tortillas

6 wooden toothpicks

sunflower or safflower oil for frying

Preparation: Mix all the sauce ingredients and leave for at least half an hour.

Beat the ricotta to smooth out. Spread it over half of each tortilla, leaving a 1/2 in (1cm) border. Season lightly with salt, and fold tortilla in half to cover the ricotta. Push a toothpick through the centre part of the semi-circular edge to secure.

When you are ready to eat, pour 1/4 in (0.5cm) depth of oil into a frying pan and heat until hot. Fry the tortillas, a couple at a time, turning once, until golden and crisp. Drain briefly on kitchen paper. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, pass out to the hungry hordes. They should remove the toothpick, open up the tacos slightly and spoon in a little of the sauce, then eat the whole thing straight away.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions