Brushing up my culinary skills with Dhansak

Some of the best years of my life were spent studying and inculcating the best behaviour, lifestyle and virtues at my Parsi school, J B Vachha High School. We vachhaites fondly call it JBV. My alma mater is an only girls school so involving all the so-called girly learnings in the extra-curricular activities was a give-in. However, ‘cooking’, which was one of those activities, somehow never-ever managed to capture my interest. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a bad cook but I simply don’t like cooking – and this repulsion towards cooking invites a regular weekend ranting from my mum that’s ignored quite shamelessly 😛

Now, for a change I gave in and decided to treat her and the family by cooking Dhansak for Sunday lunch as it would help in treating us to a meal different than other regular cuisines cooked at my place and also relive my days at JBV. For those who aren’t familiar with this popular Parsi dish – Dhansak is ideally a non-vegetarian wholesome meal which is a combination of Persian and Gujarati cuisines. It is usually accompanied with brown rice and salad but since my dad’s advised to avoid rice, I replaced rice with some delicious parathas that I had learnt from an office colleague, Seetha. Now, despite the fact that cooking isn’t really my mode of enjoyment, being the chef for a day (ahem, a meal) was a completely pleasurable experience. No point in not sharing some good vibes … so below is a basic, easy recipe for Veg Dhansak and Seetha’s Paratha’s for those who sail in the same boat as mine and for those who unlike me just love cooking…

Veg Dhansak

Ingredients – to cook for 4 people

2 tablepoons of oil

1/2 cup of toor dal (split pigeon peas)

1/2 cup of masoor dal (red lentils)

1/2 cup yellow or green moong dal (split golden / green gram)

Note: One’s free to use more variety of dals, if one wishes to

2 cups full of nicely chopped vegetables that includes brinjal, carrots, pumpkin, potatoes and green capsicum

Note: Again, one’s free to use more / different varieties of veggies here but brinjal and pumpkin’s a must

1/2 – 1 cup of chopped methi leaves (fenugreek leaves)

1 big finely diced onion

1 or 2 finely diced tomatoes

1 teaspoonful of ginger-garlic paste

Masalas (quantity is flexible to suit your taste):

Red chilli powder (approx. 1-2 teaspoons)

Turmeric powder (approx. 1/2 teaspoon)

Dhana-Jeera powder / Cumin-Coriander powder (approx. 2-3 teaspoons)

Garam Masala powder (approx. 2 teaspoons)

Sambhar Masala powder (approx. 1 teaspoon)

Salt (approx. 1 teaspoonful)

Directions for cooking Veg Dhansak

Step 1: Mix all the dals (lentils) together and wash them thoroughly till the water seems clear. Leave them soaked in water for around 10-15 mins.

Step 2: In a pressure cooker, add the dals, diced vegetables and fenugreek leaves together with around 4 cups of water and cook for 3-4 whistles or till the dals completely get cooked.

Step 3: Heat oil in a pan. Add diced onions and sauté till pink. Then, add ginger-garlic paste and allow it to be fried for a few seconds. Follow this by adding diced tomatoes and keep sautéing till they start breaking a little. Add all the masalas and salt and mix them well with the onions and tomatoes that are being cooked. Finally, add the mixture of cooked dals, vegetables and fenugreek leaves to this. Cook the dish by stirring it for a few minutes and voilà your Dhansak is ready.

Step 4: Garnish the Dhansak with some finely chopped coriander leaves.

Dhansak curry should ideally have a thick consitency. Non-vegetarians often add mutton or chicken to this preparation. I made an extra quantity of Dhansak without onions, garlic and potatoes as my mum tries to follow a jain diet. In a strict jain preparation, one can choose to add raw bananas in the veggies and perhaps some broccoli too. The best thing about Dhansak is that you can customise it according to your taste / choice of dals and vegetables.

Seetha’s parathas


1 teaspoon of oil

Wheat flour, Nachni flour (red millet flour) and Bajra flour (pearl millet flour) in 2:1:1 proportion

A fistful of finely chopped fenugreek leaves

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of red chilli powder

2 tablespoons of curds

Salt to taste

Directions for making Seetha’s parathas

Step 1: Mix all the ingredients (except curds) well with 1 teaspoon of oil, add curds and then knead it with water to make the dough. The dough should not be very soft or very hard but just right to be able to roll parathas well.

Step 2: Make ping-pong ball size of lumps of this dough and roll them in round parathas

Step 3: First put these rolled parathas onto a pre-heated tawa and allow it to turn slightly brown. Flip the paratha to its other side and yet again allow it to go slightly brown. Now, add some oil and press and flip both sides of the paratha to cook it completely. The hot Seetha’s parathas are now ready.

My report card:

Papa: “It’s very nice…”

after a while: “It was really very nice… I really liked it”

still after a while: “Oh, it was yum, beta. I really enjoyed it”

Aww, I love you popsy 🙂

Mamma: “Hmm, it’s turned out pretty well”

Yeah mamma, I do have the potential to match your cooking skills at times and yes, I ain’t absolutely lazy 😉

Brother: “I like the parathas but this Dhansak is okayyy”

Well, considering my brother never liked Dhansak, I would like to believe okayyy = good 😀

Do try the recipes yourselves if you like to and hope you enjoy eating them.

This is what I served