I’m very excited to bring you my first recipe post, which I hope will be the first of many! Today I am offering up an amazing Indian feast. I am completely in love with Indian cuisine, to the point where my house usually smells like a Bombay street market (or at least, how I imagine a Bombay street market smells)! Dhansak is a hot, sweet and sour dish containing lentils and often including pineapple, and it has to be my favourite Indian dish. For this recipe I’ve teamed up the dhansak with some traditional pilau rice and homemade chapattis. Of course, if you don’t have the time or the inclination to make this entire feast in one meal, you can always serve the dhansak with some plain basmati rice and shop bought chapattis. It will still be glorious! However, when you do have the time and occasion I urge you to make the whole thing. If I could give budding cooks any advice it would be that most bread products are a hell of a lot easier to make that most people think they are. The chapattis in this recipe are very simple and will take barely any time out of your day to whip up, so please give it a try! Chapatti flour is usually available in large supermarkets and always available in Indian stores.
Dhansak is usually made with a dhansak masala spice blend, which I’ve found to be impossible to get hold of so I’ve included directions to make your own masala. I almost always make my own spice blends, as it’s so quick and easy to do if you have the right tools (I use my nutribullet to grind the spices in seconds, but you could also use an electric coffee grinder kept for spice-grinding only) and because freshly ground whole spices have so much more flavour than ground spices. If you really don’t want to make the dhansak masala you can substitute shop bought garam masala but be aware that this will have a different, and probably less pronounced, flavour.
I’ve used jackfruit in this curry, which is usually available in Asian supermarkets canned in syrup or water, although I’ve only been able to find it canned in syrup thus far. Jackfruit is revered by many vegans as you can pull it apart, making it resemble pulled meats in texture. I personally love it chopped into bite-sized chunks. In this recipe it adds sweetness. If you can’t find jackfruit, simply used canned pineapple rings. With regards to the whole spices used in the pilau rice, you should be able to find most, if not all, of them in larger supermarkets. If you can’t find them, go to your nearest Indian supermarket. I love to spend ridiculous lengths of time perusing the vast quantities of spices and other products on offer!
Check out this awesome vegan link party by The Culinary Mama where I’ve linked back to this recipe:
For the dhansak masala: 1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 bay leaves (dried are fine)
1 star anise
1 black cardamom pod
1 dried red chilli
For the sauce: 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 vine tomatoes, quartered
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
For the curry: 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
Olive oil spray
100g red split lentils, washed and drained
1 vegetable stock cube
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
150g baby potatoes, chopped into 1-1.5cm chunks
150g frozen baby carrots
150g white cabbage, chopped into bite-sized pieces
100g jackfruit in syrup, drained and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Fine sea salt
160ml can coconut cream
- To make the dhansak masala, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add all the masala ingredients and lightly toast the spices, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a high-speed blender or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Alternatively, grind in a pestle and mortar. Set aside until needed.
- To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Place a cast iron or other heavy-based large saucepan on a medium-low heat and spray with olive oil spray. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the red lentils along with the dhansak masala and a splash of water. Stir to mix well and cook, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and vegetable stock cube. Bring to a simmer, cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender but still holding their shape, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and jackfruit, plus 1 tsp salt and 300ml water. Stir well, bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until the veg is just tender.
- Add coconut cream, stir, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
Olive oil spray
8 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
6 green cardamom pods
300g basmati rice, soaked for 20-30 minutes, washed and drained
1 tsp ground turmeric
- Place a medium non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Spray with olive oil. Add the whole spices and cook, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes until the cumin seeds turn a shade darker.
- Add the rice and turmeric and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add 1 litre water, stir once and cover. Bring to the boil and lower the heat as low as it will go. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed, about 6-7 minutes. Keep an eye on the rice as it cooks. If it looks like it’s about to boil over, move the lid so that it is slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.
- Once the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat and leave the lid tightly on the saucepan for 10-15 minutes before fluffing up the rice with a fork. This step is crucial to the perfect basmati rice. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Simple Homemade Chapattis
Makes 8 chapattis
280g chapatti flour
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon rapeseed or other flavourless oil
160ml tepid water
Olive oil spray
- Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add oil and water and mix with a wooden spoon until the wet and dry ingredients are partially clumped together. Knead with lightly floured hands until a soft, smooth, slightly sticky dough forms. If the consistency feels wrong, add a little flour or water as necessary. It should be a soft, malleable dough. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
- Shape into 8 balls and roll out on a floured surface to form flat, thin discs. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and spray with olive oil. When hot, add a chapatti and cook for about 2-3 each side until lightly browned. Be careful not to overcook as this will make the chapatti stiff and tough. Once cooked, spray the chapatti with a little olive oil and wrap in tin foil to keep warm. Repeat the process with each chapatti.