Fasting during Ramzan is one of the Five Pillars, or vital practices, of Islam that include faith, prayer, charitable giving, and pilgrimage to Mecca. It is believed fasting serves numerous spiritual and social purposes—reminds one of human fragility, cultivates compassion for the needy and fosters a deeper connection with god.
The daily fast ends with a call for evening prayers followed by iftar translated as break a fast in Arabic. Juicy, delicious dates are served followed by water or sharbat, and Rooh Afza is the mashruub-e- pasandida (drink of choice).
I am constantly amazed by the amount of food on iftar tables. Ramzan is all about abstinence and discipline. In this month, Muslims are not encouraged to indulge or enjoy extravagant food, but the communication can be misleading on social and traditional media with captions and headlines that scream "best Ramzan food in your city”. There’s a flood of photos with nihari, kebabs, kulfi falooda and different versions of Rooh Afza. But, these are not foods that Hindustani Muslims eat every day during iftar, although biryani and nihari are regular fare. The menu comprises vegetarian and meat entrees as well as exquisite desserts. It is a meal rich in carbohydrates like whole-grain dishes, proteins like yoghurt, fish, poultry or red meats, sugar from fruits or any homemade sweet dish and lots of liquids.
During iftar, a quick snack or light meal is followed by a supper later in the evening, which is shared with loved ones. Every home has family favourites, but two snacks are common to all—pakode and keema samosa, also known as warqi samosa and luqmi. I grew up eating it almost 20 out of the 30 days of Ramzan, and would throw a fit if it wasn’t on the table.
When I moved to a hostel in Ranchi for four years as a student, I missed home-cooked keema samosa but not for too long. I found a hole in the wall food joint run by a Muslim man. He would fry fresh samosa with a sufficient amount of meat filling. An adequate quantity of meat stuffing makes a good keema samosa a great one.
Sambusak is believed to be the predecessor of keema samosa. In a paper titled Delhi, the Capital of Muslim India: 1334 - 1341 published on the website orias.berkeley.edu, the fourteenth century explorer Ibn-Battuta describes sambusak as a triangular pastry consisting of ground meat and mixed with almonds, walnuts, pistachios, onions, and spices, and placed within a piece of thin bread fried in ghee.
Sufi poet Amir Khusrow famously framed a do sukhane (riddle) about shoes and samosa. It starts with the question, “Samosa kyun na khaya, joota kyun na pehna? (Why was the samosa not eaten, why were the shoes not worn?” The answer is, “Talaa na tha.” It’s translated as the samosa wasn’t fried and the shoe soles were missing. The Urdu word talaa means frying as well as shoe soles.
As a chef and food researcher, my observation suggests the recipe of keema samosa largely remains unchanged whether it’s made at home or in food stalls during the holy month. If you are craving keema samosa, let me help by sharing my mother's foolproof recipe. Don't forget to share a few with someone who is hungry or underprivileged; after all, Ramzan is all about sharing and caring for your community.
My mother's recipe for keema samosa
2 tbsp ghee
300 gms keema (mutton with 20 % fat)
200 gms onion, chopped
1.5 tbsp ginger garlic paste
3-4 green chilies, chopped
Half tbsp coriander seeds roasted and crushed
Salt to taste
1 tbsp crushed red chili
Half tbsp cumin seeds roasted and crushed
Half cup fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp water, or as required
A packet of samosa patti (easily available in the market)
Oil for frying
1. In a frying pan, add ghee and minced mutton. Stir continuously till the reddish meat turns light brown.
2. Mix in ginger-garlic paste, chopped green chilies, crushed coriander seeds, salt, crushed red chilli and cumin seeds.
3. Mix in fresh coriander.
4. Add onions and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Take off the flame and let the stuffing cool.
5. In a bowl, combine all-purpose flour and water. Set aside. This acts like a glue to seal the samosa.
6. Take a samosa patti and make a cone. Fill with stuffing and seal the edges with the paste made with all-purpose flour and water.
7. Repeat with the remaining. The stuffing will suffice for 15-16 samosas. Heat cooking oil in a deep frying pan and fry samosas till they are golden brown.
8. Serve with green chutney or ketchup. To store the samosas, cool them properly, place them in an airtight container and freeze. Consume within a month.
Sadaf Hussain is a chef and author of the book Daastan-E-Dastarkhan.