Cauliflower Dhansak (sweet and sour lentil curry)

dhansak 3

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I really like making curry (see here and here).  I think that lots of people can be a bit scared of making it from scratch – in fact, when I first moved out as a student, I used to use jars of sauce (a flatmate and I always used to share a jar of korma sauce, cooked with tinned tuna and onions, and some bought naan breads – it was so good!).

When I was a vegetarian, I started with the various inauthentic dhals and curries you get in student cookbooks.  They were often either bland or tasted only of chilli, but even if they were quite nice I always wished they tasted like the curries from an Indian restaurant.

As a side note, the ‘student cookbook curries’, while inauthentic, can be really tasty –  my quick tip if making curry from a non-specialist cookbook is double up on all of the spices EXCEPT the chilli and you can also try a little lemon juice and/or sugar at the end to perk it up a bit.

Since my student days I’ve learned a lot about curry, both more authentically Indian recipes (with the help of a great cookbook called India’s Vegetarian Cooking which has recipes from the various regions) and some of the classics of British Indian restaurants, which is a very different thing.  This curry falls into the latter category and is one of my favourites on the rare occasions we get a takeaway (we got one on Saturday in fact, when visiting relatives, and it spurred me on to try making it!).

dhansak 4

Dhansak has a thick lentil sauce and is moderately hot, with lots of nice spices and it’s sort of subtly sweet and sour.  Obviously you can make it with any meat or vegetables of your choice – I used cauliflower, courgette and pepper, roasted.  I would have also added a few cashews for extra protein and crunch but we didn’t have any in and it was filling enough without it to be honest.

Vegetable Dhansak

dhansak 2

Dave dubbed this “the best homemade curry I’ve ever tasted” so it wasn’t just me that thought it turned out well!  I consulted The Takeaway Secret for inspiration but didn’t really follow the recipe (would still recommend it as it’s a great cookbook!)

  • 1 small onion, diced 3p
  • 2-3 small carrots (about 100g), peeled and chopped 7p
  • 1/2 green pepper, 1/2 diced small and half cut into larger pieces 24p
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed 9p
  • 3 tablespoons red lentils 2p
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes 16p
  • 1/4 block creamed coconut 25p
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (I’d have used fresh if I had any in)
  • 1 tsp garam masala 4p
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 3p
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper 6p
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 3p
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin 3p
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander 3p
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 3p
  • 1/2 cauliflower, cut into half florets 99p
  • 1/3 courgette, cut into small wedges 10p
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used brown but you can use any really) 4p
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste, or juice of 1/2 lemon (I used tamarind as I had some in) 25p
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil 9p
  • small handful chopped fresh coriander (free from windowsill)

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Arrange the cauliflower, courgette and larger chunks of pepper on a baking tray, drizzle with half of the oil, and season.  Roast for around 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and slightly blackened on the edges.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large pan.  Add the carrot, onion and diced pepper, and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When softened, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the spices, coconut, lentils, tomatoes and water and cover with boiling water.  Cook for 30 minutes or so, until the lentils and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Blitz the sauce very well with a hand blender until there are no chunks of vegetables left.  Add the sugar and tamarind or lemon juice, tasting and adjusting as needed until you get a subtle sweet and sour taste.  Season with salt if desired and add in the roasted vegetables, reheating them if necessary.

£1.26 per portion for the curry, plus 9p per portion for boiled rice to serve with it.  We also had a couple of leftover wraps from last night which I haven’t costed yet.

dhansak 4

9 thoughts on “Cauliflower Dhansak (sweet and sour lentil curry)

  1. Corinne

    This looks amazing, will definitely try!
    Ps. I always thought you should have a food blog, can’t believe you had one all along 😀

    1. Jess Post author

      Thanks!! Well I’ve only had it for about a month, just didn’t want to tell people until I knew I would post regularly 🙂

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  5. Chloe

    Just made this sauce (with a couple of tweaks to suit available ingredients) and it was absolutely spot on- exactly what I was after, so thanks!

  6. Shanila Taylor

    This week I discovered your wonderful tasty curry. Have made it twice already changing up the variety of grilled vegetables and nothing else. Soooo healthy and soooo delicious but soooo easy. Love it 😍


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