Lentil sambusas

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This glorious lentil sambusa recipe is infused with niter kibbeh, a spiced clarified butter that is widely used in Ethiopian cooking. You can use spring roll wrappers if you don't fancy making the pastry, but it's worth giving a go if you have the time – it's a very simple dough to make and has a beautiful texture. Follow our berbere recipe to make this amazing spice mix for the filling.

First published in 2018

Inspired by the Indian samosa, the East African sambusa is flavoured with the fiery berbere spice blend and uses the wonderfully fragrant niter kibbeh; a clarified butter infused with ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamon and bay leaves to name a few. Save the leftovers in the fridge and use it in place of oil or butter! Switch out the lentils for lamb or beef mince for a variation.




Niter kibbeh

Lentil filling


  • 250g of plain flour
  • 100ml of water
  • 1 tsp salt

To fry the sambusas

  • vegetable oil, for deep fat frying


  • Muslin cloth or a coffee filter


Place the ingredients for the niter kibbeh in a pan and simmer over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Once the butter solids are starting to caramelise into a beurre noisette, take off the heat and strain through a muslin cloth or coffee filter into a bowl
To make the lentil filling, heat 2 tbsp of niter kibbeh in a pan and fry the diced onion and berbere on a low heat until soft. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a further minute
Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear, then add them to the pan and top up with 300ml of stock. Leave to simmer for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check the seasoning, then transfer the mixture to a tray or plate to cool down quickly
Place all the ingredients for the dough into a bowl, along with 2 tbsp of the niter kibbeh, and mix with a fork until a dough starts to come together. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel for half an hour
Divide the pastry into 30g balls and leave them under a cloth as you work to prevent them drying out. Roll a ball into a 2mm thick circle, then cut the circle in half. Add 1 tsp of filling to the middle of each semicircle, equidistant between the rounded edge, the cut side and the two corners. Bring the bottom corner up over the filling to cover, then fold the top corner down to create a neat triangle
Pinch the open edges of the dough together, using a little water to help seal the dough if needed. Repeat the process until you have 24–26 sambusas
Preheat a pan of oil or a deep-fryer to 180°C
Fry the sambusas in batches until bubbled up and golden for about 45–60 seconds before draining on kitchen paper. The sambusas can be served hot or at room temperature

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