Curried Chickpea Sambusak (Sambusak bel tawa) & Amba
Sambusak are special to us because they are one of the dishes we made for our first ever event, back in 2013. These delicious pockets of stuffed dough hail from ancient Babylonia and are the ancestors of samosas, empanadas, and calzones. Today sambusak remain an important part of the cuisine of Jews from Iraq and are eaten for Purim as their pocket form “hides” a vegetarian filling, reminding us of Queen Esther “hiding” her Jewish identity from King Ahasuerus while eating a vegetarian diet when she was living in the palace so as not to break the laws of kashrut.
As is traditional for Jews from Iraq, we serve these with amba, a delicious and tangy pickled mango condiment. The story goes that this chutney was developed by the exceedingly wealthy Sassoon family, also known as the “Rothschilds of the East”, who famously moved from Baghdad, Iraq to Mumbai in the 1800s. Another theory is that Jews from Baghdad who were living in India introduced Iraqi Jews to Indian mango pickles as the two communities did business with each other. However this condiment came to be, it soon spread throughout the community and became an essential part of Jewish-Iraqi cuisine.
1 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
½ tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
13 Tbsp chickpea water
1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, drained
1 ½ medium onions, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ heaped tablespoon curry powder
½ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 egg lightly beaten (only to be used if you’re baking rather than frying the sambusaks)
4 medium-large green (unripe) mangoes, peeled and cut into cubes
4 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 fresh small red chili peppers, seeds removed, finely minced or ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
1 ½ tsp ground fenugreek
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground sumac
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup packed brown sugar (light brown or dark brown can be used)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ¼ cup water
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt. Stir to combine the dry ingredients. Add in the olive oil and chickpea water, mix until the dough comes together and it’s malleable.
Lightly dust your work surface, turn the dough out onto it, and knead for 1-2 minutes until the dough is smooth. Place in a clean bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, coarsely mash the chickpeas and set aside.
In a medium pan, heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil until it’s shimmering, add the onions to the pan and sauté until the onions are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the mashed chickpeas. Add the curry powder, cumin, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the chickpea and onion mixture, stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until about ¼ inch thick. Using a 3 inch cookie cutter or glass, cut the dough into circles. Brush the edges of the rounds with water and place half a tablespoon of the chickpea stuffing in the middle of each round.
Fold the dough over to make a half moon, and pinch the edges to seal the sambusak. Continue with remaining dough.
To deep fry: In a large pan with high sides, add an inch of oil and heat until the oil reaches 360 degrees fahrenheit. Add 6 sambusak to the oil, and fry until golden, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil and repeat with remaining sambusak.
To bake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the sambusak on the baking sheet. Brush the sambusak with egg wash and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Unbaked (or un-fried) sambusak can be frozen in layers, then packed into heavy Ziploc bags. Put them straight into hot oil or a preheated oven when you take them out of the freezer, and proceed as above.
Toss the cubed mango with the kosher salt in a non-reactive or plastic bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, add the canola oil to a medium sauté pan and heat until it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds to the pan, and when they start to sputter, add in the red chili peppers. Sauté for 30 seconds, making sure the mixture doesn’t scorch.
Add the mango and the spices to the pan, stir to incorporate. Add the brown sugar and stir until it’s melted in. Add in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and ¼ cup of water. Stir to incorporate.
Cook the mixture at a simmer for 35 minutes, until the mango is tender, stirring frequently. Add ½ cup of water at the 10 minute mark, a ¼ cup of water at the 20 minute mark and another ¼ cup of water at the 30 minutes mark. Lower heat if the mixture is sticking to the pan or bubbling too vigorously.
When the mixture has finished cooking, turn off the heat and add in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Remove the amba from the heat and puree with a hand blender until it’s almost smooth (it’s okay if there are still some mango chunks). Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.