Book Review: Mountain Berries and Desert Spice and Spiced Apple Samosas

 

I am probably the first to admit that I often overlook desserts and sweet things. In the case of cookbooks I also tend to find that the obligatory sweet recipes are placed in the back, often as an afterthought and the centre stage is given to the savoury dishes.

Coming out this April, however, is a beautifully evocative book that focuses exclusively on sweet inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea, written by food writer and cookery teacher, Sumayya Usmani, author of ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree’ – I wrote all about her first book here. It’s actually rather refreshing to have a book solely dedicated to all manner of sweet delights from Sumayya’s homeland, Pakistan.

 

Photography © Joanna Yee – Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto group

She interweaves stories of her childhood and memories with beautiful photographs of the region and recipes that really tempt you to try making for yourself at home. It’s the type of book that I like to pour over and read all the stories as well as the recipes. She demystifies how to make all manner of sweet delights – family recipes from the foothills of the Hundu Kush mountains in the north – where berries and fruits grow in abundance, via the fertile Punjab, where rice and grain based desserts are prevalent to the Arabian sea in the south, where saffron and cardamon laced sweet recipes are a favourite.

 

 

The chapters themselves are equally evocative and capture the essence of the book wonderfully:

Chilli mangoes and ocean breeze

Festive spice and roses

Sugar almonds and buffalo milk

Kite, kingdoms and cardamon samosas

Through mulberry valleys

A saffron blaze

and so they go on….

Many of the recipes look inviting from ‘Sohan saffron honey caramels with rose water, pistachio and almonds to Bakar khani – sweet puff pastry biscuits, Mulberry and cherry fruit leather, Nan-e nokhochi – chickpea flour shortbread with cloves. Rose water, rose petals, saffron threads and pistachio are used on many occasions in the recipes so it may well be worth stocking up on these. When mangoes are in season I can’t wait to try the ‘mango, thyme and pink salt with rose water clotted cream’ – I like the sweet and salty aspect to this dish.

I opted for the ‘spiced apple samosas’ for todays post. The pastry was really easy and quick to make and I covered it with a damp cloth whilst I made the filling for the samosas.

The trick is to not over fill the samosas. Keep close to the instructions and you won’t go wrong. I sprinkled them with a little more cinnamon powder and icing sugar before eating. I had extra filling leftover so made another batch of pastry. The perfect afternoon snack with a cup of tea or chai.

 

Spiced Apple Samosas

makes 6-8

for the pastry

150g plain all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 tbsp fine semolina

water, as needed

vegetable oil for deep frying

For the filling

6 Royal Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces

100g super fine golden caster sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground

pinch of mace

  1. To make the pastry combine the flour, salt and semolina in a bowl. Add water slowly so that the dough is formed.
  2. Knead the dough until it is soft and then cover with a damp towel.
  3. In a saucepan add the apples, sugar and spices and cook on a low heat until they soften – about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
  4. Roll the dough out so that it is 1/4 inch thick and using a pastry cutter – I tried with both 2 and 3 inch diameter cutters – larger is slightly easier. Cut out around 6-8 circles.
  5. Place 1 tsp of filling for each samosa and fold over to create a half moon shape. Using a fork, press down firmly to seal completely.
  6. Heat the oil and when it is hot (check by dropping in a crumb to see if it fizzles) drop in a couple of the samosas. Deep-fry for 2 minutes on each side – or less if your oil is hotter. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

Sumayya suggests serving with whipped cream with a teaspoon of rose water and dried rose petals. 

You can pre-order Mountain Berries and Desert Spice here