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Chicken Dhansak

Chicken Dhansak

Dhansak is a hot, sweet and sour dish of Persian origins, which evolved in the North-East of India by the early Persian (Iranian) settlers. Traditionally it’s eaten on the fourth day after the death of a loved one, with no meat being consumed for the first three days. But it’s so tasty that I could quite happily eat it every day. I’ve been playing around with this recipe for a while now, and this is the final version which I hope you enjoy. Don’t be scared by the number of ingredients. It’s worth the effort!

(serves 6-8 people)


  • 1kg chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 200g aubergine
  • 200g sweet potato (or butternut squash)
  • 200g red lentils
  • 6 large cloves garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp tamarind extract (or 2 tbsp lemon juice)
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek/methi leaves (optional)
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 600ml water
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • salt, to taste


  • Spice Paste
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1” piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 dried red chillies (or 1 tsp chilli powder)
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves


1. Dry-fry the whole spices until fragrant, and then grind to a powder in a blender or pestle & mortar

2. Wash the lentils twice, and then leave to soak while preparing the next steps

3. Fry the onions until golden, then add the spice powder mix and garlic, and fry for a minute more

4. Add the water, tomatoes, vegetables and ginger and simmer until soft

4. Remove from the pan and process in a blender until smooth

5. Put back into the pan, add the drained lentils and cook until lentils are starting to get soft

6. Add the chicken, and simmer on low heat for 20 mins (or until cooked). Stir regularly to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add more water if needed. No need to fry the chicken first. Just simmering will keep it more tender, rather than frying first which will actually make it tougher

7. Add the dried fenugreek, tamarind, sugar and salt. Taste, and add more sourness/sweetnesss to your taste. Simmer for 5 mins

8. Throw in a handful of fresh coriander and garam masala and stir just before serving

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