Simple Dhansak

Mallika Basu - Simple Dhansak

Posted 30th September 2008


I can’t write about aloo gobi and chicken curry while the global financial system implodes around me! I feel like those musicians who played while the Titanic sank.

The US Treasury rescue plan has been a particular bee in my bonnet. Free capitalism crumbles. Then the ordinary people have to pay the price.

Meanwhile, Hank Paulson makes the insightful comment of “We need a plan that works” (Financial Times, 30th September). No surprise there, from a fat cat former global bank CEO.

Not that we ordinary mortals would be better off either way. The rot in this system is only just beginning to bare it’s ugly teeth. The greedy scumbags who got us into this mess will sun their pot bellies in far flung destinations. While we pay for in the cost of aubergines and potatoes tomorrow, what we’re reading about in the papers today.

I’m making hay while the sun shines. Buying exotic, expensive vegetables from supermarket shelves before I’m forced to grow my own in my balcony pots. And then turning them into rich and warming feasts for wintry evenings. Like this simple Dhansak, a vegetarian pumpkin and aubergine filled version of the truly authentic Parsi sweet and spicy Lamb Dhansak. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, the method is idiot-proof.

If everything falls apart, I’ll trade my despair in for a bowl of Dhansak.

Feeds 3-4:

  • Half a cup of toor, masoor and moong dal (equal quantities)
  • 1 small aubergine
  • 100gm pumpkin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large tomato
  • Half tsp coriander powder
  • Half tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp ghee

For the paste:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Half inch ginger
  • Half tsp cumin seeds
  • Half tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 dry red chillies


Grind all the paste ingredients together in a blender with one tablespoon of water. Slice the onions and chop the aubergine and tomato into large bite-sized chunks. Peel the pumpkin and chop it up too. Soak the kasoori methi in two tablespoons of hot water.

In a large pot, bring the ghee to heat over a high flame. When it’s hot, add in the onions and fry for two minutes until they start turning golden brown. Then mix in the chopped vegetables, the dry powders and the masala paste. Fry for two minutes again mixing everything together viciously.

Next, wash the dals well and stir them into the vegetables. Add hot water to cover the ingredients and bring to a boil. When it starts bubbling, reduce the heat to a medium flame and cook covered for 20 minutes stirring from time to time. Add a bit of hot water only if the mixture gets very dry and starts hissing and spitting everywhere.

If you have a pressure cooker, you are set for five to seven minutes of cooking.

When the dal melts easily in the mouth and the large chunks of vegetables have disintegrated, spoon in the sugar, tamarind, kasoori methi and salt to taste. Serve piping hot with Parsi Brown Rice.

16 responses to “Simple Dhansak”

  1. N+D says:

    Mmm, so perfect for this time of year. Been glancing longingly at the little pumpkins popping up in the shops. Might have to try the lamb version though, even without the luxury of a pressure cooker…

    The financial crisis is bad enough, but the media coverage is even worse, don’t you think? I’m not sure the sky can fall any faster, but they’re doing their best to hurry it along.

  2. Krista says:

    My lord. This looks amazing… and I just happen to have a fresh from the market eggplant and a fresher from the farmer squash.

    Dinner calls.

  3. dollybasu says:

    loved your article and the veg, dhasak recipe

  4. Bharti says:

    you make dhansak when u despair?
    wow..I just eat noodles from a packet. Never tried this’s a gujrati thing right? It looks delicious! I wish I could tell u don’t despair, but I’m feeling quite unsettled myself.

  5. notyet100 says:

    ur version of dhansak looks yum,..hppy navratri

  6. This seems delectable and I too have been casting longing glances at the pumpkins in the market this season!

    The recipe calls for ghee — could you leave it out or is it necessary for the flavor? (I’m assuming yes, since you were specific.)

    Thanks so much for stopping my blog! I hope you’ll have a chance to try the dry-pan eggplant method. In the meantime, I’ll post back the next time I make another of your recipes (which will be soon!).

  7. srboisvert says:

    Any suggestions for substitutions for the pumpkin? It is a bit hard to find out of season (and even in season!) around my area.

  8. Wendy says:

    Oh yum. Shall be making this tomorrow night, I think!

  9. Mallika says:

    Thanks guys! Butternut squash or sweet potatoes work well as alternatives to the pumpkin.

    Cooking the books – the ghee isn’t essential but it really works wonders here to enhance the richness. You could try butter too. Only allowed because of the despair involved…

  10. This looks great! I love pumpkin dishes! YUM!

  11. Well, I have to agree with you that butter is a mood-lifter. They should prescribe it instead of Prozac!

  12. Wonderful use of seasonal pumpkins! Why not include this (or any other of your marvellous cooking-from-scratch recipes) in my food blog competition?

    As for credit crunch, hey, it’s boom and bust – the perrenial cycle of capitalism. We need a more sustainable way of doing things…

    The speculators on foreign currency (or whatever they are speculating on) should at least be taxed. Google the Tobin Tax for more info, or check out

  13. […] is a wonderful way to impress guests alongside a Dhansak. Or simply serve with Khichdi for a super healthy meal. This entry was written by Mallika, posted […]

  14. Leshar says:

    new to this site and blog, very entertaining, in a nice way,to read the foreword with recipes, and the comments. the recipes also look very inviting, shall have to try some soon, esp this one.

  15. veggie lover says:

    A lot of ingredients, but looks great. Will try this tonight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *