Anjum Anand's chicken dansak

Dhansak is an authentic Parsi dish. The vegetables are optional – leave them out or add others you have

Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 medium-large tomatoes, puréed
  • 800g/1 3/4 lb chicken, skinned and joined
  • 200g/7oz red lentils, rinsed, soaked and drained
  • 4 small aubergines, halved lengthways (optional)
  • 450g/1lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks (optional)
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste, or to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

For the paste
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 15g/ 1/2 oz ginger, peeled
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2.5cm/1in piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, or to taste
To make the paste, whizz all the paste ingredients with a little water in a blender until smooth. Fry the onion in oil in a non-stick pan for about 8 minutes, until well browned. Stir in the paste and salt and cook until the moisture has evaporated, then fry over a low heat for another 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the tomatoes and a good splash of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes over a moderate-high heat, until the oil starts to bubble at the sides of the pan. Add the chicken and brown for a few minutes. Add the soaked lentils to the pan with 800ml/1 1/4pt water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the aubergines, cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, then add the squash, if using. Cover again and cook until the chicken and vegetables are tender, giving the pan an occasional stir.
Add the tamarind paste to taste, the garam masala and sugar. Check the seasoning and, using the back of the spoon, crush some of the lentils to bind the gravy. Add a splash of recently boiled water from the kettle if it is too thick. Sprinkle the coriander over and serve.
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