Curry Puffs, or "karipap" as they're called in Malaysia, are sort of like Indian samosas or Spanish empanadas but stuffed with a curried meat filling. They're usually fried, but I wanted to make a somewhat healthier and less greasier version by baking them (I really shouldn't be eating these at all since I'm trying to tone down but what the heck). Of course everything tastes better fried, but these baked curry puffs are so light, flaky and buttery that you'll never crave for the fried version.
You can use store-bought puff pastry if you don't feel like making them from scratch, but I find that I get a sense of pride and accomplishment from knowing that I made the food with my bare hands. After hours of sweat in the kitchen, I was finally able to produce a delicious pastry that has just the right amount of flaky goodness. The secret is to create a dough that consists of hundreds of thin layers separated by solid fat (butter, lard, shortening, etc.) and to prevent the fat between the layers from melting by keeping the dough chilled.
Making the filling is the easiest part. First, prep the vegetables - dice the shallots; peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes; roughly chop the garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, chilies and blend them into a paste (this is when a Magic Bullet comes in handy).
Heat up the cooking oil over medium heat and saute the diced shallots. Add the whole spices - cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise and fry the spices along with the shallots. When the shallots start to brown, stir in the paste and fry for a minute or so before adding the ground meat.
Turn the heat up and cook the ground meat until all the excess moisture has evaporated and the meat starts to brown. Then throw in the potatoes. Add the curry powder and stir until everything is well coated with the curry powder. Then pour in just enough water to cover the meat and potatoes. Toss in the curry leaves and bring to a boil.
Once it comes to a boil, season with salt to taste and add the sugar - this is optional; I find that adding just a tad bit of sweetness brings out the flavor in curries. Then put the lid on, turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are done. Finally, stir in the frozen peas, put the lid back on and simmer for another 2 minutes. Put the curry in the fridge to cool down while you prepare the dough for the pastry.
I used the classic puff pastry method which involves wrapping a slab of butter in the dough and then folding it repeatedly.
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing as you pour, until the flour comes together. Knead for a few minutes to form a smooth dough.
Put the butter on top of a piece of a piece of wax paper and cut into cubes. Sprinkle liberally with some flour and squash the cubes with your fingers. Place another piece of wax paper on top of the whole mess and pat it down to roughly shape the butter into a square. Refrigerate the dough and butter for about 15 minutes.
Dust your work surface with a generous amount of flour before proceeding. Then roll out the dough into a square of about 12 inches or so and place the slab of butter in the middle. Fold the dough over the butter so that it is completely enclosed.
Pound the dough gently with the rolling pin to flatten out the butter and then roll it out into a long rectangle, about 20 by 10 inches.
Then rotate the dough 90° - this is called a turn. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Repeat this process a couple more times - roll, fold, rotate and refrigerate. In the 1st turn, you create 3 layers of dough separated by butter. By the 6th turn, you will get 6 x 3 = 18 layers. The more turns, the more layers and the flakier the pastry - but don't overdo it since the thin layers of dough will tear easily and the dough could turn into a buttery mess.
Once the dough is ready, roll it out into a 12-inch square. Then starting from one end, roll up the dough into a tube and cut into strips of about ¼ inch thick.
Working with 1 strip at a time, flatten with the palm of your hand and roll out into a circle of about 6 inches in diameter - the size of a taco shell. Put the filling in the center of each shell and fold in half. Pinch the edges of the dough and pleat to seal.