Chicken Dhansak


IMG_20150723_230332[1] 25/07/2015

Another Indian recipe for your perusal because you can never have enough Indian food. I’m not talking about takeaways here where every dish comes from a base sauce and is covered in oil but fresh ingredients and subtle spice combinations packed full of flavour and texture.

Chicken Dhansak is made with lentils to thicken the sauce. The combination of spices, freshly ground, add depth, heat and bucketfuls of taste!

Serves 4-6


  • 1kg chicken joints, skinned
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 inch cube ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Grind the following 10 ingredients in a coffee grinder:

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 green cardamons
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-6 dried red chillies
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
  • 125ml/4fl oz warm water

For the dhal:

  • 3oz toor dhal (yellow split peas)
  • 3oz masoor dhal (red split lentils)
  • 5 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 600ml/20fl oz warm water
  • 1tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp tamarind concentrate or 1 ½ Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves


  1. Wash and dry the chicken portions and cut each portion into two.
  2. Add the salt to the ginger and garlic and crush to a pulp.
  3. Make a paste of the ground ingredients and the ginger/garlic pulp by adding 6 Tbsp water. Pour the mixture over the chicken and mix to coat thoroughly. Cover and set aside for 4-6 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  4. Melt the ghee or butter over medium heat and fry chicken for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir several times.
  5. Meanwhile, mix together the dhals, wash and drain well.
  6. Heat the oil over medium flame and fry onions for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add turmeric and garam masala, stir and fry for 1 minute. Add the dhal, adjust heat to low and fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water and salt, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  7. Using a metal spoon, push some of the cooked dhal through a sieve until there is a very dry and coarse mixture left. Discard the coarse mixture and sieve the rest of the dhal the same way.
  8. Pour the sieved dhal over the chicken, cover and place the pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally during the first half of cooking time but more frequently during the latter half, to ensure that the mix does not stick.
  9. Add the tamarind concentrate or lemon juice to the dhal and mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves and remove from heat.

IMG_20150723_224931[1] IMG_20150723_230410[1]


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