Fortunately, Ramadan started on a Saturday this year, allowing a weekend to get used to the new schedule. At night, after the fast is broken, there is that feeling that only the Uzbek term “elit” describes best. “Ramadan mon’eh elitdi” (sorry this is all phonetic since I cannot spell properly in Uzbek) which means, “I’ve been softboiled by Ramadan.” It’s quite a lovely feeling of being satiated and elated all at once.
The meal we broke fast with is a revamping of the traditional Uzbek samsa. A lot of Uzbek cuisine seems to depend on chunks of fat nestled into the meat to make it taste rich and hearty. But this is absolutely unhealthy, especially since there are no battles on the steppes to balance off the fat, a healthy revision of samsa is necessary!
In this version, which was quite flavorful, I dropped the fat, using lean meat, whole wheat dough instead of that puff pastry dough (one serving of anything made with puff pastry dough is enough calories for the entire day). In place of fat chunks, I used rhubarb for a dash of tartness to contrast the chili peppers thrown in.
Samsa (serves 4 ppl)
1 whole wheat dough (bought frozen at Whole Foods)
1/2 lb of ground beef
2 medium red onions
10 chili peppers (okay, choose how spicey you want your dish)
1 stalk of rhubarb (adds freshness and tang)
2 pinches of cumin
2 pinches black pepper
2 pinches of coriander seeds
1 tsp yogurt
Defrost and roll out dough. Flatten dough with hands. Use just wet hands and work the dough out (don’t use flour). Separate into four long rectangular pieces. Flatten out these individual pieces.
Throw onions, rhubarb and spices into the best food processor you can find and of course, the spices must be freshly ground. Salt to taste (most Central Asians are generous with salt so for this filling, let’s say a 3/4 tbsp.)
Mix into the lean ground beef. The idea is to have more of the onion showing than the meat. So measure it on your own and make sure it is 2 parts onion/rhubarb mixture to meat. The less meat the better, the more onion the more flavorful the filling.
Set aside for at least 15 minutes. You can flatten out your dough while waiting for the filling to mingle with each other. Most likely you’ll have a lot of filling left over, and this is great you can let it marinate in the fridge or freeze it and bring it out next time you feel like unrolling some dough.
Fill the rectangular dough pieces with the meat stuffing. I recommend a filling that allows space on the sides so the dough may fold or be pinched together and a layer that is not too generous that it spills out. Think a monkish appetite when filling. Fold up the two sides like an envelope. Seal it and brush over the closed samsa with yogurt.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put it in the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes. Don’t let it get too brown on top. If it is browning quickly then lower the heat to 375 and maybe you want to cook on that heat till its done.
The result is a samsa that is rectangular rather than square and something that can be foiled up and carried with you for a quick nourishing meal.
We ate the samsa before I remembered to take any photos.
The result of this samsa is low calories and a very flavorful, fresh tasting and zingy quick meal on the go. If you have time then make some black tea and add some sugar. Samsa goes best with sweet black tea.
Take that Lean Pockets!