Lamb Dhansak

This is a really hearty Parsi recipe.  Although there are many variations of the dish, it has three core elements – lentils of some form; pumpkin/squash, and a protein (I’ve used Lamb, but chicken, mutton, goat all work well – it can even be made without meat).  The final dish is a filling, moreish casserole dish that is perfect for a cold day.  I may not have done this in the ‘traditional’ manner, but I’ve gone with a combination of my Western cooking and traditional Parsi methods to, hopefully, give you a good result.  I’ve cooked mine in a slow cooker, but you can equally cook this in a casserole dish and slow cook it in the oven.  Let’s get into it!



1kg of cheap cuts of meat – I’ve used lamb neck here, but anything that can be slow cooked to tenderness is perfect
1 can of tomatoes (or 4 medium sized fresh tomatoes, if in season)
1/2kg of pumpkin, cubed into 2cm chunks – I’m using a Crown Pumpkin here, but butternut squash would also work very well
1 lemon or lime
1 medium onion, chopped
200gms of mixed dals – I’ve been fancy and used three different dals, but if you just have the yellow toor dal or some pink lentils, that’ll work fine
2cm of ginger root, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 tablespoons of plain white flour
6 green cardamoms seeds
1/2 teaspoon of cloves
2 teaspoons of chilli powder (or smoked paprika, for a milder curry)
4 sticks of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of tamarind puree (if you have it – it’ll add a great sourness to the dish)
Oil for frying
Salt & Pepper for seasoning


Start by soaking your lentils in some boiling water.  Ideally you’d leave your lentils overnight to bulk up, but an hour in boiling water will do the trick.


Once soaked, rinse your lentils until the water runs clear.


Next, coat your meat with your cumin, chilli powder, garlic, ginger and flour.  Make sure all the pieces of meat are well covered and set aside until it’s time to fry.


In a deep saucepan (or a slow cooker, like me), gently fry your onions with a little oil and the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.  Let your onions fry slowly until translucent, but don’t let them burn.


When your onions are ready, sear your meat in a hot frying pan with a little oil.  Don’t fry for too long or the meat will burn – we’re just trying to get the milliard effect going. Cook on one side…


Then flip over.  Cook in batches, if needed.


Place your meat in with your onions.


Add in your lentils that have been soaked and rinsed through.


Add in enough water to cover all the ingredients – you can use a beef stock to give a stronger flavour, but I found this a bit overkill and the only stocks I had available gave it too Western a taste, killing the Indian/Parsi spices.


Add in your can of tomatoes…


And your tamarind paste.


Add in your pumpkin cubes and stir all the ingredients together…start wishing that you had a bigger pot!


Bring your dish to the boil before turning the heat down to a simmer to slow cook for 3 hours until the meat is tender…or, if you’re lazy, pressure cook for 10-15 minutes.


If you’ve pressured cooked your food, it may be a little thin, so you need to simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, to reduce the gravy to a thicker consistency.


Take about half of the pumpkin out of the pot and mash.  Some recipes say to take out all the pumpkin and the lentils and blitz them in a blender.  For me, this killed all the texture and turns the dish into a bit of a slop – not the most appealing.  But mashing a little of the pumpkin will give you a smooth texture in the gravy as well as allow the texture in the lentils and remaining pumpkin cubes to remain.


Add your pumpkin mash back into the pot and mix to combine.


Season REALLY well.  We have a lot of ingredients that have a very base flavour, so the dish needs lots of salt and pepper to bring it to life.


Finally, add in a squeeze of lemon/lime for some added tang.  If you added this in at the start you’d get a bitter taste, so leave it for now.


Serve with some fluffy basmati rice or freshly cooked rotis.  Enjoy!