Dhansak is a newly wed bawi’s kryptonite and has been mine for a very long time as well.
It doesn’t help that all the recipes online /in cook-books have enough steps to scare the living daylights out of me. And, since the mom-in-law has so far been chief Dhansak maker, it means that I have to live up to my mom, in-laws and the Mr. standards.
However, there is no greater joy than facing your fears which is what I exactly did last week and it turned out amazing! So amazing in fact that at a pop-up event I participated in and sold the Dhansak at later, award-winning photographer Aneesh Bhasin asked if we could do a wine-pairing session together. To read more on what wine he recommends with Dhansak, click here.
Trust me, don’t let Dhansak be your kryptonite – it’s much simpler than you think it is and if you’re still in doubt, below is my eight – step recipe for Dhansak:
1 & 2. First, soak the dals and marinate the your meat in salt/ginger-garlic paste either overnight or 4 -5 hours prior to you cooking. This step is crucial to ensure that the dal comes out smooth and the meat becomes tender so don’t cut corners here.
3. Prepare a step further and before you even switch on the gas, finely chop the pumpkin, onion and capsicum. If you want to use fresh methi (a small handful or your dal will get bitter) rather than methi seeds chop that now too.
4. Now you are ready to begin. In a big pressure cooker, saute the onion with oil and a tsp of ginger garlic paste until the onion becomes golden brown. Add in the masalas and the salt. When you start to cough it means the masalas have cooked and you can add in all the veges to stir fry.
5. Once all the vegetables are coated in the masala and have become semi-soft add in all the dal with about 3-4 cups of water.
6. Close the cooker and let the whole thing cook for about 3 whistles + 10 mins on slow flame. If you would like to eat your Dhansak vegetarian, simply skip the chicken cooking below and proceed to the final step.
7. However, if you are a meat lover, now, in a separate crockpot, heat up a little oil and add in the chicken. If needed add a little water, close the lid and let it steam cook for about 15 – 20 minutes while the dal is cooking in the other pot. I recommend cooking the meat separately so that it doesn’t overcook and become tough.
8. Once the dal is off the stove, empty it out of the cooker and into a big crockpot. Give it a quick blend using a hand mixer to make the dal smooth. The dal will be quite thick so you can get it to the right consistency using the chicken stock to add that meaty flavour. Add in the chicken, squeeze in juice of one lemon and let the Dhansak simmer on the stove for another 10 minutes while you scrape away at the dal stuck to the bottom of the cooker.
When everyone in your home comes sniffing into the kitchen and the dar starts bubbling your Dhansak is ready. Dhansak is served best with some brown rice and bawa kachubar. Make sure you have enough for leftovers because rumour has it that Dhansak tastes even better the day after it is cooked!
To make enough for 6 very hungry people and some leftovers you will need:
2 cup toor dal
1 cup moong dal
1 cup orange masoor dal
2 small onions
Ginger-garlic paste to marinate the meat
2 teaspoons each of turmeric, red chilli, garam masala, and dry dhansak masala powders
2 tsp of methi seeds
1 small slice pumpkin
1 small capsicum
2 small brinjals (about 1 cup chopped)
1 kg mutton/chicken pieces washed and cleaned
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon