This recipe is my homebrew attempt at synthesising my favourite restaurant/takeaway curry in a quick-to-make form, since all the dhansak recipes I’ve seen are very involved and don’t read like they’d produce anything very similar to the curry I know and love.
As with all my cooking, quantities are very approximate: I never measure or weigh anything, so the amounts I’ve specified below are just my rough guesses at the amount that I tend to slop in. Although I work this way due to laziness, I argue that it’s positively a good thing, since the subtly different proportions every time you cook the same thing stop the palate from getting so used to it that it becomes boring.
Anyway, this recipe serves about four people as specified here, but it’s easy to do half quantities for two, or quantities-and-a-half for six. It should take about half an hour.
- Boil some water, add salt, and cook two good handfuls of red lentils in it for maybe twenty minutes. That can be going on quietly in the background while you get on with the rest of the recipe.
- Heat up two tablespoons of oil in a pan, and fry two heaped teaspoons of cumin seeds in it for one minute. (Groundnut oil is best if you have it, but vegetable or sunflower oil is fine.)
- Add a cubic inch of ginger root, finely chopped, and fry for one more minute.
- Add four to six fresh or pickled chilies, finely chopped and fry for one more minute. (Optional.)
- Add three to five cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and fry for one more minute.
- Add 300-500g chicken meat, in bite-size pieces, and stir-fry for about five minutes, until it’s all gone white, with the cumin, ginger, chili and garlic mulch sticking to it.
- Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and put it to one side, leaving most of the oil and mulch in the pan.
- Add two more tablespoons of oil together with spices: one to two teaspoons each of garam masala, paprika, cumin seed and general-purpose curry powder — or whatever you happen to have around the house. Mix them all up, and stir-fry for a minute or two.
- Add two big onions, very finely chopped, to the pan, mixing thoroughly with the oil, mulch and spices. If you think that more oil is needed at this point, feel free to add it.
- Leave this onion-and-spices mixture to fry for ten minutes or so, moving it around occasionally to prevent sticking. If it seems to be drying out, add some of the liquid from a tin of pineapple.
- This step is optional, depending on how you like your curry texture: put about half of the onion-and-spices mixture into a blender or food processor, and whiz down into a coarse paste. Then add it back into the pan.
- Your lentils should be cooked by now. Drain off the excess cooking water.
- Add the chicken back into the pan, together with half a tin of chopped pineapple, a cubic inch of thinly sliced ginger, a dozen or so whole black peppercorns and the drained lentils. Add a good squirt of lemon juice to taste.
- Mix in some coarsely chopped coriander leaf. (Optional.)
- Leave to simmer gently for ten more minutes, adding more liquid from the pineapple tin if necessary.
That’s it, you’re done. You can either eat this straight away (you did remember to boil some rice while you were doing this, right?) or you can let it cool down and re-heat it the next day (adding water as necessary to get the texture right after the overnight evaporation.) For some reason, this — like many curries — is actually rather better the next day.
How authentic is this recipe? Who knows. Probably not very.
How good does it taste? Mmmmmm.
Note that this was lightly modified from a previous recipe of mine.