lamb dhansak


It’s been a bit relentless round here lately. A lot of juggling exciting work stuff with a very sick toddler plus doing that last minute Christmas shopping thing that we promise ourselves we’re not going to do every year. Basically, we’ve been in dire need of some proper comfort food and this dhansak has delivered in spades.

I spotted lamb on offer in my local supermarket and so bought more than we needed, froze half and made a huge vat of this warming, rich Persian-Indian lentil based joy with the rest. Buy bone in lamb if you can, as simmering with the bone adds a ton flavour and make sure you don’t leave the tamarind out as that sweet sour balance is crucial. Just the sort of thing to have blipping away in the background while you chase your 19 month round the room with a dose of Calpol get into the Christmas spirit and perfect with a stack of parathas.


500g lamb shoulder, diced plus the bone if possible

1 large onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, crushed

an inch of ginger, shredded

4 green cardamom pods

1 heaped tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. curry powder

1 cinnamon stick

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. fenugreek

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 whole star anise

200g red lentils

200g yellow split lentils

1 whole peeled tamarind pod (or a tablespoon of paste)

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

500ml stock


  • heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger until the onions have taken on a dark caramel hue.
  • Add the cardamom, cumin, curry powder, cinnamon, chilli, turmeric, fenugreek, coriander powder and star anise and continue to stir and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the lamb and mix well, before adding the red and yellow lentils again combining really throughly to ensure everything gets a good coating of spices.
  • Slosh in the stock, tomatoes and add the bone and tamarind pod. Turn the heat to low and simmer for at least two hours, stirring every now and again and adding more stock/water if things start drying out.
  • Add a good pinch or two of sea salt and also about a teaspoon of sugar. Mix in some natural yoghurt if you want to tone things down a bit and serve.


  1. Been in my files since you posted. Now planning to cook. Do you really mean only the single red chilli? Can’t see this would make the dish hot enough to need ‘toning down a bit’?

  2. Thought you would like to know this dish went down a storm with our friends last evening. I got the meat counter to bone out the shoulder and trimmed it when I got home. After two hours in with the spices and lentils it came out beautifully tender. The flavour of the whole thing was wonderful, sometimes lentils just seem to absorb flavour and not give it back, however this dish was rich and warming – exactly as described. Thanks ….. what’s next I wonder?

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