Dee Auntie’s Dhansak

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Appears in

The Settler's Cookbook

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Published 2009

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The list of ingredients is long, and the recipe appears daunting, but put aside half a day, turn on music and slowly cook this pot of myriad overlapping tastes. You and it are surely worth it. I classify the ingredients so they can be piled separately and used when needed. It is best made with meat from a leg of lamb.


  • 2 lb leg of lamb, chopped by the butcher into small chunks
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 pints water


  • A teacupful of the following dhals, all hulled: masoor (red), toor, moog and urd
  • 2 tbsp channa dhal
  • Salt


  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 12 pickling onions
  • 1 small pumpkin or 3 courgettes


  • 3 tbsp tamarind paste. Buy tamarind in a block, tear off half and soak in water just boiled (the water should come ½ in. over the soaking tamarind). Leave for two hours while you get on with other stuff. Then crush the mixture with your hands and push through a sieve.
  • Bunch coriander
  • 2 tbsp grated jaggery
  • 3 finely chopped onions
  • Bunch mint
  • 2 limes
  • 1 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large tbsp crushed ginger, garlic and fresh green-chilli mix (you can buy these at Indian food outlets or make your own, whizzing with a little water, 2 chillies, 8 cloves of garlic and a large lump of peeled ginger cut into small pieces)


  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp cumin/coriander powder mixture
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 8 curry leaves


  • Grind together in a coffee grinder the fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, fennel seeds and star anise.
  • Now, wash the meat and boil in half the water with salt and half of the garlic, chilli and ginger paste. You want it almost cooked.
  • Meanwhile, rinse water through the dhals and boil in the rest of the water with salt until it has cooked to soft. You can add more water if needed. It should be a slop at the end. Add a glug of oil to stop the mix getting lumpy.
  • Peel, cut and cover vegetables with a little oil and roast until nicely browned.
  • Heat the oil in a largish flat pan and fry onions until red brown. Add tomatoes, remaining garlic/ginger/chilli, sliced green chillies and all the spices. Lower the heat and cook slowly, stirring once in a while for at least twelve minutes. Add the jaggery and let that melt.
  • Take this cooked masala off the heat and add the tamarind.
  • Whisk the dhal a little, and add the meat to it with 2 cups of meat stock. Then add the masala and simmer for thirty minutes. You will need a big pan. Add more stock if it gets too thick. Add the roasted vegetables and return to the boil for another five minutes.
  • Add lime juice, chopped mint and coriander.
  • Serve with rice or fresh crusty bread.