For this month’s Velveteer’s challenge, we were asked to make a traditional Parsi dish called Dhansak. This is only my second month participating in the Velveteers lovely cooking group, and both times have had me scratching my head. In October, we were asked to cook Laksa, and for November we were asked to make Dhaksak. These are two dishes I knew next to nothing about.
But that is the best part about being invited into such a diverse cooking group: it forces me to cook outside of my comfort zone. In just two months, I’ve now cooked two dishes that I had not previously heard of. And each time, I’ve been thrilled with the results.
That being said, I had to do some research before I attempted making Dhansak. I scoured the internet for recipes, variations, and tips. As I said before, Dhansak is a traditional Parsi dish, which is usually made of lentils, mutton or lamb, and pumpkin. Nich (my husband) and I are big fans of lamb, and so we knew that we wanted to stick to the traditional protein choice for our Dhansak. As for the rest of the vegetables and spices, I had to do a bit of thinking before I decided that we would make our version of Dhansak with sweet potatoes – instead of pumpkin, which is traditionally used. (Note: I did not know that it isn’t technically Dhansak without the pumpkin, but thanks to Asha and her post, I now know! But she posted this tidbit of information after I’d already made our Dhaksak!)
Since Dhansak had been described to me as a curried lamb stew, my brain immediately decided that I needed to make Dhansak into some form of a pot pie (or shepherd’s pie). I would make a relatively traditional Lamb Dhansak, but then I would cook it in individual ramekins and top it with buttery, flakey goodness: I was going to top my Dhansak with puff pastry.
So, I did just that. I made little individual Dhansak pot pies. Nich (my husband) and I holed up one particularly chilly weeknight, and set about making Dhansak. The whole meal took much longer to prepare than we originally anticipated, and by the time we finally ate dinner, it was nearly 9pm. I was starving (to say the least) by the time the Dhansak was ready, but it was well worth the wait. Every bite was complex, warm, comforting, spicy, and just so good. I had a ton of leftovers and I happily munched on Dhansak for days!
Lamb Dhansak: Pot Pie
(Adapted from Niya’s World)
1 lb lamb neck meat (or lamb stew meat)
1 large can (28 oz) crushed or chopped tomatoes
1 cup lentils
3 sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 package frozen puff pastry
3 – 5 cups Chicken stock (or water)
4 cardamom pods, squashed
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
1.5 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
2-3 green chilies (deseed if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
In a large pot, combine the lentils, sweet potato, onion, tomatoes, turmeric and a pinch of salt. Add stock or water to just cover, then simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the lentils are tender.
Meanwhile, toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom in a small pan over medium-high heat (no oil!) until fragrant. Grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
After you have toasted your spices, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot, and add the lamb in batches and brown on all sides. Remove the lamb, and set aside. Add the toasted spices to the same pot (that the lamb was just in) and add in the ginger, garlic, and chilies. Cook for a few minutes (until garlic is tender) and add in the lamb, garam masala, and the lentil/sweet potato mixture. Add in a bit more stock or water (1/2 cup).
Cover and simmer for an hour and a half (remove lid for final 30 minutes) or until the lamb is completely tender and sauce thickened. When it is is nearly done, stir in the peas.
When the dhansak has cooked to your liking, scoop into individual ramekins (or other small oven safe bakeware). Cover each with one square of puff pastry and bake in the oven at 400 for 15 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown.
And that is how you make this particular version of Dhansak. I had a lovely time making (and eating) it!
” The 4 Velveteers* was started by Pamela (The Cooking Ninja), Aparna (My Diverse Kitchen), Asha (Fork Spoon & Knife), and Alessio (The Recipe Taster), who are passionate about different cuisines and food in general. Each month, we will attempt a new dish and share our experiences and the recipes we used. If you’re interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our Google group. ”
Do, check out what the other Velveteers have created:
Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen made Vegetable Dhansak, Parsi Brown Rice and Kachumbar
Asha from Fork, Spoon, Knife made Traditional Parsi Mutton Dhansak
Sarah from Simply Cooked made Easy Chicken Dhansak
Veena from Veg Junction made Vegetarian Dhansak