Samosa Chaatdish (Samosa Tater Tot Hotdish)
"This is you, in a recipe!"
That's what my friend Lauren said when I told her about this idea to infuse the most old-school Minnesotan of recipes (hotdish, i.e. casserole) with Indian flavors. And she's right.
This Samosa Chaatdish mirrors my own heritage in an absurd way that happened to be incredibly delicious... and it doesn't hurt that I got to make a pun while naming it.
I grew up with parents who cooked very differently from one another. While my Minnesotan mother made beef stroganoff and blue box mac and cheese, my Mangalorean father would often spend entire weekends cooking various Indian dishes my sister and I didn't fully appreciate until we were older.
That's how this Samosa Chaatdish was born—from equal parts white kid and brown kid. And despite the fact that I can't remember eating a hotdish even once as a kid, it's so very Minnesotan that I still feel like I've got hotdish in my DNA along with the coriander and the turmeric.
Y'all know what a samosa is, I assume. It's probably why you're here in the first place! If you're new to samosas, they are Indian fried dough pockets filled with veggies (usually potatoes and peas) or meats (usually a spiced, keema-like mixture with lamb or beef).
Chaat is an Indian snack that you'd order from a street vendor or a deli counter somewhere. It involves dressing up something (usually something fried) with all kinds of toppings until it reaches peak snack status of hitting every savory, salty, sweet, spicy, tangy, crunchy, creamy, umami-covered note. By design, chaat has all the qualities that food scientists are trying to mimic when they invent a more addictive potato chip.
Samosa chaat, in particular, is a chopped-up samosa served with typical chaat toppings: chana masala (chickpea stew), raw onions, fresh cilantro, coriander chutney, tamarind chutney, yogurt and sev (crunchy fried chickpea noodle snacks). And then there's a sprinkle of chaat masala, which is a fairy dust spice blend of about a billion different things that change depending on who is making it.
The Samosa Chaatdish starts with a double-batch of my go-to, one-pot Keema recipe (without potatoes, but with spinach to make it Palak Keema) as the base, baked in a casserole dish with crispy tater tots on top. P.S. Don't be intimidated by the long recipe instructions—I promise it's just detailed, not complicated. :)
Once it comes out of the oven, you can really choose your own adventure on the chaat toppings. It honestly tastes awesome with just a bit of fresh cilantro and yogurt if you want to stop there, but even better if you take a trip to the Indian grocery store to pick up some chutney and crunchies.
(i.e. Samosa Tater Tot Hotdish)
gluten-free, paleo recipe (depending on your tots and toppings)| serves 8
- 4 medium yellow onions, minced finely
- ghee or olive oil
- 2 T jalapeños, seeded and minced (approximately two medium peppers)
- 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 2 T garam masala
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 1 tsp pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste (sprinkle salt as you go—it's easier to keep track and not over or under-do it)
- 6 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 package frozen spinach (16 oz)
- juice of one lemon
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (a large bunch or two)
- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
- 1 package of tater tots (I used Ore Ida, which is technically the one-and-only "tater tot")
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)
- 1 cup coriander chutney (recipe here if you want to make your own!)
Bonus Chaat Toppings!
- minced raw onions
- sweet tamarind chutney
- sev (crunchy Indian chickpea noodle snacks)
- a sprinkle of chaat masala
- chana masala (chickpea stew, Trader Joe's actually makes a really good frozen one if you don't want to make your own)
- Using a big stock pot or Dutch oven, fry onions on medium heat, stirring frequently until they start to caramelize. Then add ghee or oil to the pan and give them a pinch of salt or two and cook until they are a medium golden color. Be patient — this can take a little while but it really lays the groundwork for all the layers of flavor in this dish. (p.s. I actually have a whole post on caramelized onions, if you're interested).
- Clear a space in the pan, adding more ghee or oil there. Throw in the jalapeño, ginger and garlic and fry for a minute or two until fragrant. Then stir to combine.
- Add the garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon and stir to coat everything. It'll be a dry mixture at this point, but that's normal.
- You'll probably need to brown the meat in two batches even with a very large pot, so remove about half of this masala-onion mixture and set it aside.
- Add half the ground meat to the pot, sprinkle with salt/pepper and brown as you combine it thoroughly with the onion mixture. Repeat with the remaining meat and masala-onions.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and sprinkle with a little more salt. Simmer on low, covered, about 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes kind of melt into the stew, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the frozen spinach, lemon juice and about half of the chopped cilantro. Turn off the burner.
- Taste and adjust spices, salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the frozen peas, if desired.
- Transfer the palak keema into a 13x9 (3-quart) casserole dish. Top with a single layer of tater tots.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the tots are crispy and golden brown.
- Serve with the rest of the fresh cilantro, plain yogurt, coriander chutney and whatever other bonus chaat toppings you like! (For the photos, I added minced red onions, tamarind chutney and sev but normally I'd let everybody top their own servings.)
A stop at the Indian market (or online) to buy things like sev and tamarind chutney is worth it! I can almost always find coriander chutney and garam masala in my regular grocery store in MN, but they obviously going to be easier to find at Indian stores.
Most store-bought chutneys don't have the cleanest ingredient lists. If you'd like to make your own coriander chutney, I've gotchoo. Here's my Mint-Coriander Chutney recipe.
You can make the keema a day or two ahead of time if you don't want to do all the prep on one day.
This reheats very well, just not in the microwave. You've gotta throw it back in the oven to bring the crispiness back to the tots.
This would be a fantastic dish to bring to new parents. Something more unique than the typical lasagna, yet still in casserole form.
If you're looking for a good chana masala recipe to go all out on the chaat-ness, I don't have one... YET. You'll have to look elsewhere. :)
I am so excited for you to try this hotdish. And if you like it, you'll probably love this Paleo Gobi Masala Soup.