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Lamb Dhansak

May 18, 2006

Cold weather, comfort food. And what better way to cheer everyone up than with a nice spicy Indian lentil dish.

Dhal is the generic name for pulses – peas, beans and lentils – and today’s dish uses two varieties. These are toor dhal or split yellow peas, also known as pigeon peas; and masoor dhal which are split red lentils.

Pulses are rich in protein, carbohydrate and fibre, and low in fat which is mostly of the unsaturated kind. You will often see an assortment of pulses in a packet of soup mix. They certainly add substance to a hearty winter soup.

Today’s recipe is for the classic Parsi dish, dhansak. Parsis went to India from Iran 1000 years ago and they are known for their rich, spicy cuisine.

For this very tasty dish I used the top end of a leg of lamb and cubed it, removing any fat. You can make your own dhansak masala from the recipe given or purchase a lamb masala mix.I served the dhansak with Aloo Baingan Jhol, a wonderful potato and eggplantdish from Manju Malhi's India with Passion cookbook.

Lamb Dhansak
(Serves 2-4)

3 tbsp ghee
3 cardamom pods
2 pieces of cassia bark
4 cloves
1 large onion – finely diced
1 tsp freshly crushed ginger
1 tsp freshly crushed garlic
3 heaped tsp dhansak masala (or Spice Wise lamb masala)
2 tsp salt
500g diced lamb
1/2 cup toor dhal (split yellow lentils)
1/2 cup masoor dhal (split red lentils)
1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (or chopped fresh vegetables - I used diced carrot and parsnip softened in the microwave)
juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

Heat the ghee in a large heavy pot and fry the whole spices (cardamom, cassia and cloves).  Add onions, garlic and ginger and fry until light brown in colour.  Add dhansak masala (see below) or Spice Wise lamb masala, 1 tsp salt and lamb.  Coat lamb in spices and add two cups of water and allow to cook gently until the meat is tender.  Once the meat is cooked, take it out and put it to one side leaving behind the soup in the pot.  Add to the pot two cups of water, lentils, tomatoes, frozen vegetables and 1 tsp salt.  Once the yellow lentils are tender, blend the dhal with a stick blender and return the meat to the pot.  Boil for two minutes or until the meat is piping hot and garnish with fresh coriander and lemon juice.  Serve with hot rice.

Dhansak Masala

100g coriander seeds
50g cumin seeds
50g whole red chillis
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp star anise
1/2 tsp peppercorns
5g cinnamon stick (cassia bark)
5g cloves
1/2 nutmeg
pinch of mace

Grind all the above together and store in an airtight container.

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