Dhansak is a popular dish in India, among the Parsi Zoroastrian community. It combines flavours from Persian and Gujarati cuisines. Traditional dhansak is made by cooking mutton with a mix of lentils and vegetables. Common vegetables used are eggplant, pumpkin, squash and gourd like bottle gourd or good ol lauki(in Hindi). It’s all cooked together in flavour town, with fragrant spices, onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. A key ingredient is dhansak masala, which is a blend of spices, and imparts the flavour so distinct of any traditional dhansak. It can be made at home if one knows the exact blend of spices. Or like me, just buy ready made dhansak masala, it is available at most Indian grocery stores.
Growing up in Mumbai, I have relished Parsi food, my family loves it! Still reminisce the delicious Parsi fare eaten on banana leaves at the Parsi weddings I attended. Well, sadly for meat-lovers, I have omitted the mutton in my recipe. Just stuck to lentils and vegetables, namely, eggplant, carrots and butternut squash. Turned out delicious nonetheless! So here I present my version of vegetarian dhansak or dhansak dal, as I call it.
Split yellow pigeon peas(toor dal) – 1/4 cup
Split green pigeon peas(green toor dal) – 1/4 cup (optional)
One could just substitute with the yellow split peas itself. I like green split lentils, thus used them, but they are not used in the traditional recipes.
Red lentils(laal masoor dal) – 1/2 cup
2 cups, chopped eggplant, with the skin removed
1 cup, chopped pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 large tomatoes, chopped
Minced garlic – 1 tsp.
Minced ginger -1 tsp.
Cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp.
Turmeric – 3/4 tsp.
Garam masala powder – 1 tsp.
Dhansak masala powder – 2 tbsp. Or according to your taste.
A little lemon juice
Salt to taste
Oil – 2 tbsp.
Soak the lentils in water for at least 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a pressure cooker, add the lentils along with the chopped eggplant, squash, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes. Add turmeric and 4 cups of water.
Let out 2 whistles and then cook on low for 8-10 minutes till the lentils and veggies are cooked. If you do not own a pressure cooker, cook in a regular Dutch oven or large pot, the cooking time would be longer, about 45 minutes, for the lentils to cook thoroughly.
Blend or purée the lentil mixture, the best way is to use an immersion blender.
In a large Dutch oven or stew pot, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds. Lower heat, so the spices don’t burn. Add ginger, garlic, garam masala powder, Dhansak masala. Can add a tablespoon of water.
Add the lentils and mix well.
Add salt and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Add lemon juice. Serve hot!