Wednesday, 15 August 2012 | 27 comments

East Africa-inspired samosas

It’s been awhile since I’ve been back to east Africa. It’s a place that once wholly captured me. I thought I would never come back. Last night, instead of packing, I found myself sorting through my photos from a few years ago to give you a taste (if you’ve never been to Kenya or Tanzania or Uganda)–of how diverse and gorgeous it is.

My friend Elissa has written a bit lately about how hard it is to eat well on the road, and I’m apt to agree. For long trips like this, I try to bring something to get me through.Kimberley started a nice series about bringing food to eat well on the road, organized by mode of transportation. She lists some good airplane options, as well as some truly creative car recipes that involve throwing a rice cooker in your trunk.

For me, portability and sturdiness are paramount when making food with which to travel. In my east Africa state of mind, I thought immediately of samosas. You can get samosas on just about every street corner or any tiny shop in a place like Tanzania—a culinary legacy dating from British colonial times when Indian servants were imported to the continent. They’re generally deep fried and really good.My version here has a whole wheat, baked crust, which is less messy to transport and doesn’t get soggy or crumble. I lay them flat on parchment paper, lightly wrap them and then seal in a gallon zipper bag. This travels just fine in my carry-on rolling suitcase, on top of the clothes.

I’m in the cab on the way to the airport, so see you in September, friends.

Baked samosas with whole wheat crust

You will need

For dough:
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water + a few more tablespoons
1 teaspoon salt

For filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cups chopped vegetables (for this recipe, I used onion, peppers, and collard greens, which is actually pretty similar to what you’d find somewhere like Tanzania. Feel free to use what you have.)
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
A pinch garam masala
1 teaspoon salt

For assembly:
Melted butter or ghee


In a skillet, heat the oil. Add aromatics first, such as onion and garlic, then the rest of the vegetables, sauteeing until they are very tender and slump together a bit. Stir in coriander, cumin, garam masala, and salt. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.

Add flour, salt, and olive oil to a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and stir. Add more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, mixing with your hands as you go, until the mixture forms a cohesive dough. You don’t want a sticky dough, just one that stays together. Knead it with your hands for a minute or so, until it’s elastic.

Break off a handful of dough and form it into a ball. You’re looking for about a 3-inch ball of dough. Flatten the ball, then, on a floured surface, roll out the ball into a thin circle—pretty much as thin as you can go. Slice the circle in half, into two semi-circles.

On one half of the semi-circle, spoon some of the filling (I used a few tablespoons in each). Fold the other half of the semi-circle over on top of the filling, so it forms a rounded triangle, and crimp both edges. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling. Place the assembled samosas on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the samosas with melted butter or ghee. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the samosas have crisped up a bit but the dough still gives a little under your fingers if you push down on one.

Serve hot or cold. I like them with a dipping sauce, like a sriracha yogurt sauce or sour cream.

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§ 27 responses to East Africa-inspired samosas

  • I recently traveled with a friend who told me all about her adventures in East Africa, so my interest is piqued! I hope to make it there someday. I don’t love pastries with more crust than filling, but these samosas look right up my alley. Whole wheat crust is my favorite!

  • I want one in my hands right now! Safe travels + see you soon.

  • this seriously looks so amazing. i need to make this as soon as i come out of my writing oubliet! love it.

  • I’ve had samosas on the brain lately and so I’m so happy to stumble upon your recipe here. Have a wonderful, safe trip!

  • Gorgeous photos, and those samosas look delicious! I’m envious you’re flying back to Africa. :-) Enjoy the trip.

  • Y

    These look fantastic. I’d happily make and eat them even if I wasn’t on the road.

  • incredible pictures! love the (church?) windows, and the light, and the colors … have a great return.

  • Elena Karadjova

    You see beauty everywhere! That’s a great gift! Enjoy!

  • Maggie

    Safe travels, Sarah! Wish I were coming along.

  • Sarah, I have been to Tanzania twice with good friends who run a travel company there….they’ve done it for over 25 years, so with them I saw so much of the country I would not see as a tourist. (In Arusha, there was a wonderful pop up style restaurant on the sidewalk outside a car repair place at night after the shop closed.) I wish you happy travels! There is so much richness there. I hope to go back at some point, but in the meantime, I will look forward to viewing some of your impressions. Please share them with us, your faithful readers!

  • You went to Africa and all I get is a recipe for baked samosas? ;-) Hope you’re enjoying your time there.

  • Sarah, I made these last night with a couple of modifications–I doubled the dough and made it with half a-p flour and half whole-wheat, and I used the veggie combination you did with the addition of some cooked yellow split peas for added protein. They were great with sambal-spiked yogurt. I’m looking forward to the leftovers!

    P.S. I’m delighted to say that the collards I used were all from my little garden patch out back!

    • Katie! So happy to hear. Love the sambal yogurt sauce idea. Most of all, I’m happy to hear about your collards :) That’s the fruition of a running conversation for awhile, no?

  • I’ve always marveled at how food tucked into some kind of bread is kind of like the original to-go, isn’t it? As always, I come here and leave with something to consider.

  • nanne

    this is such a beautiful, thoughtful little web nook.. hope you will post again very soon. :)

  • I am heading to Uganda in July and this post caught my eye~ I can’t wait!

  • My heart skipped a beat when I read “East Africa Inspired Samosas. ” In college, I was known as the Samosa kid as two van loads of us travelled throughout Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. That was many many years ago, but I’ve never forgotten samosas found in even the smallest of places. But if I recall, they were also filled with meat.–the joke, of course, was we never knew what kind of meat. But who cared? Each region seemed to have its own recipe and degree of spiciness/heat. I love the addition of collard greens. Thanks for posting this.

  • Thanks for the recipe. I just found your blog and was looking thru appetizer recipes and found this. I love Africa spices/food so this looks delish.

  • Hi, Sarah
    I think, this samosa + tomato sauce= Yummy Yummy! .It sounds really so good.The garam masala and coriander, add so much flavor to it. Thanks for putting it together. Can’t wait to try it :)

  • Sarah, thank you for the recipe!

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