Recipe: Lamb Dhansak

What’s your favourite curry to order from your local Indian? I am guessing that many of you might opt for a Dhansak. In our household we will often add a tasty lamb dhansak to our order. I do love that spicy, tangy and sour curry and hello lentils! We know I do love a good lentil dish.

Well, with my mission to learn more Indian recipes I decided to research into lamb dhansak, a family favourite. As expected I discovered that the traditional dish is rather different from what we get in the Indian restaurants here in UK.

Dhansak is generally a sour curry made with lentils and squash. In fact, traditionally dhansak should contain pumpkin. Who knew?!

I made this particular lamb dhansak with leftovers from our slow roasted lamb, but you can also used diced lamb. I used a butternut squash in this batch shown, but on my first attempt I used pumpkin – both were delicious!

It might seem like a faff and there are quite a few ingredients, but if you enjoy making Indian food as much as I do, you should have most of these spices available. I totally recommended getting a little pot of tamarind paste for your fridge stash. A teaspoon of this delicious sour paste really livens up loads of Asian dishes. I use it a lot in Pad Thai, Curries and Fried Rice.

Indian Lamb Dhansak

Lamb Dhansak (serves 8)

  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 200g red lentils
  • 16 mint leaves, chopped
  • large handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 250g pumpkin (or squash), chopped into large chunks
  • 1.5 litre hot water

for the paste

  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 red chilli’s
  • 3tsp ground coriander
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4tsp ground fenugreek
  • handful of fresh coriander
  • 2tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1kg Lamb, chopped into 1inch chunks
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 4tsp tamarind paste
  • 5tbsp vegetable oil
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 4 cardamom pods
  1. Prep all the ingredients, this will save so much time and less faffing.
  2. In a large saucepan fry the onions in a little oil until soft then add the lentils, fresh mint, fresh coriander and turmeric. Stir through then pour over 1litre of boiling water. Reduce the heat and pop the lid on the pan. After 10 minutes check that the lentils are swelling up nicely, stir well and then add another 250ml of water if necessary. After 20 minutes, or whenever the lentils are swollen and softened add the pumpkin, turn off the heat and put the lid back on.
  3. Assemble the paste ingredients in a small blender and whizz together until it forms a smooth paste.
  4. In a large heavy-bottomed frying pan heat some oil then tip the lamb in. Fry for a few minutes, stirring well. Then pop the spice paste in. Fry for a further 3 minutes or until most of the lamb chunks are just lightly brown on the sides.
  5. Add the lamb to the lentil saucepan and stir the mixture well.
  6. Stir through the chopped tomatoes, tamarind paste, cardamom pods, salt and another 200ml boiling water. Bring to a simmer while the oven preheats to 140C.
  7. Place the saucepan, with the lid on, into the oven for 2hours. Stirring once an hour.
  8. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of fresh coriander and/or mint.

Lamb Dhansak