Dhaansaak part 1: Masala ni daar saathy gos

Dhaansaak part 1: Masala ni daar saathy gos

Spiced lentils cooked with spicy lamb

Mr Todiwala's Bombay
Helen Cathcart

The best known recipe of great Parsee cooking – it’s the traditional Sunday roast. Dhaansaak is made up of two main parts: lamb with lentils, and rice. Each one can be used as an independent dish as well so I have kept each part separate. This will not only simplify things but make you understand the depth and intricacies of Indian cooking. Both masalas in the recipes can be prepared in larger quantities and kept for the future in sealed containers: the paste in the refrigerator, the dry mix in a dark store cupboard. The browned rice is good with other meat and poultry dishes too.

To a Parsee, dhaansaak is always made with lamb unless someone in the family does not eat lamb, or is a vegetarian. The accompaniments – the little lamb kebab balls and the kachumber (onion salad) are as important as the main part – a bit like having Yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce with roast beef! Cooking dhaansaak is a painstaking affair but very straightforward if you follow each section methodically and it can be started the day before to enjoy the Sunday lunch (which is what we Parsees do). The end result can be a sheer achievement and if done well with go down as a masterpiece.

This recipe is part 1 of the dhaansaak: the 'saak'.

You'll find part 2 of the dhaansaak recipe under 'Dhaansaak part 2: Vagharaela chaawal', as well as part 3 under 'Dhaansaak part 3: Accompaniments'.



Quantity Ingredient
5 cm piece cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods, split 6–8 cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
10 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
8-10 large red chillies
7.5 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
10-12 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
30-50g coriander


Quantity Ingredient
100g yellow lentils
50g split chickpeas or yellow split peas
50g split yellow mung beans
100g red lentils
1 small aubergine, diced
100g red kuri, diced
2 tablespoons dill, coarsely chopped
1 taro leaf, (optional)
50g fresh fenugreek leaves
or 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
salt, tp taste
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
100g jaggery or muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped


Quantity Ingredient
2-3 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
500g lean lamb, cut in 2 cm pieces, (preferably leg)
150ml water
salt, to taste


  1. First prepare the masala. Toast all the ingredients except the fresh coriander in a dry frying pan or wok, stirring for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly browned but not burnt. Cool slightly then tip into to a clean coffee grinder or small food processor and grind to a paste, adding a little water and stopping and scraping down the sides as necessary. Alternatively, pound the mixture in a mortar with a pestle or in a small bowl with the end of a rolling pin. Do not add too much water or it will become runny. Set aside.
  2. Next make the daal. Wash all the lentils and transfer to a large flameproof casserole. Add water to come 2.5 cm above the level of the lentils.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Whilst cooking, scrape the bottom occasionally with a wooden spatula to prevent sticking. When the lentils are fully soft, purée with a hand blender and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the lamb. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the lamb on all sides to brown. When the meat is sealed, add the prepared masala paste. Sauté until you see the oil run (this shows the masala is cooked).
  6. Add the water and a little salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook gently for 20–25 minutes or until tender, adding a little more water as necessary and stirring occasionally until bathed in a rich sauce.
  7. Blend the lamb with the daal. This is your saak. Set aside and reheat when ready to serve (you may need to add a little more water, if necessary) then transfer to a hot serving dish. This is also good on its own with rice as a main course.
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again