Chicken or lamb with lentils

The Complete Asian Cookbook
Alan Benson

A Parsi dish, dhansak is served every Sunday in many Parsi homes and plays an important part at festive meals. The list of ingredients looks formidable, but the recipe consists of just five parts — meat or chicken, lentils, vegetables, a blended masala and a dry masala. This dish is served with rice, onion kachumbar and other accompaniments, and is a very hearty and filling meal.


Quantity Ingredient
220g yellow split peas
95g dried chickpeas
115g moong dhal
100g red lentils
2kg whole chicken
or 1.5kg lamb shoulder, boned
1 tablespoon salt
1 eggplant, chopped
1 slice pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 onions, chopped, plus 4 onions, thinly sliced, extra
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
50g spinach leaves, chopped
1-3 tablespoons ghee or oil

Blended masala

Quantity Ingredient
6 dry red chillies, seeded
6 fresh green chillies, seeded
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled
10g fresh mint leaves
10g fresh coriander leaves

Dry ground masala

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds, bruised
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


  1. Rinse the split peas, chickpeas, moong dhal and red lentils separately and soak in separate bowls overnight. Drain well.
  2. Joint the chicken and cut into serving pieces, or cut the lamb into large cubes. Place the meat in a large saucepan with the split peas, chickpeas, moong dhal and lentils and pour in enough water to cover. Add the salt and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the eggplant, pumpkin, potato, chopped onion, tomato and spinach and continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until the meat is almost cooked. Remove the meat to a plate. Put all of the lentils and vegetables in a food processor and process to a smooth purée.
  3. To make the blended masala, put all of the ingredients into a food processor with 60 ml hot water and process to a smooth paste.
  4. To make the dry ground masala, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine.
  5. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are brown. Remove to a plate. Add the blended masala and the dry ground masala to the pan at the same time and cook, stirring constantly, until they are well cooked and give out a pleasing aroma. Add half of the reserved onion, the meat and the vegetable purée. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20–30 minutes. Season with salt and serve garnished with the remaining onion.
The Complete Asian Cookbook
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