Fork Spoon Knife is the personal blog of Asha where she chronicles her journeys in food through stories, recipes and photographs. She can also be found doodling and sharing her experiences as below.



Traditional Parsi Mutton Dhansak and Velveteers

Mutton Dhansak

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving with not very pervasive hangovers! :) I'll tell you how our Thanksgiving went when I am back in town! :D. Can't wait to see how it goes!! In the meantime, I wanted to share with you an ethnic comfort food that will be perfect for that leftover turkey/meat - Parsi Dhansak.

Dhansak is the quintessential Parsi dish. It is a stew of lentils and meat flavored with traditional spices and brown sugar or jaggery. The dish is mild and tangy with just a touch of sweet to represent the balance of yin and yang in life.

Now, I am sure you want to know, who/what are Parsis. :) Well.. Parsis are Zoroastrians, originally from Persia who later, fearing religious persecution, took refuge on shores of Western India. Reflecting this confluence of cultures, old and adopted, their cuisine is a meld of Persian origins and Indian influences.

Mutton Dhansak closeup

Most of their dishes have a bit of sour (from vinegar, tomatoes, fenugreek) and a bit of sweet (white or brown sugar). Dhansak is the ultimate comfort food in their cuisine. Every Parsi family has a treasured recipe and getting that out of them is like pulling tooth out. I share with you an authentic family recipe, ours! :)

For Velveteers this month, we chose the challenge of finding a Dhansak recipe, by hook or crook. I share my family's recipe here. There are two major foot notes to this dish. One, the lentils have to be pureed. Parsis will not touch a lentil stew that is chunky. Two, Dhansak is always accompanied by a particular brown rice, the flavor and color of which come from caramelised sugar.

Also, Dhansak is never served on a good occasion.

Mutton Dhansak 1

Mutton Dhansak


  1. You can use any meat in the stew but mutton is most popular for it's flavor.
  2. The pumpkin serves dual purpose. The protease in it will break down the meat proteins making them tender and it adds body to the stew. If you don't have pumpkin, substitute with potato.
  3. The distinctive flavor of the stew comes from the Dhansak masala which is somewhat similar to garam masala but different! :) You can purchase it from any Indian store or make your own.
  4. I use a pressure cooker to cook my lentils and pre-cook the meat. If you don't have one, then cook them in enough water over low heat until the lentils are tender enough to be pureed with a whisk.
  5. If you are using chicken or pre-cooked meat, add it directly to the cooked lentils while cooking the lentils.

1 cup split pigeon peas (toor dal)
6 cups of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin, diced
1 medium to large onion, julienned
1 inch ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 lb mutton or other meat, diced 2 inches and salted (you can also use equivalent amounts of leftover meat)
2 heaping tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander-cumin mixture
3 heaping tsp Dhansak Masala
oil and salt as needed

In a pressure cooker, add half the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, pumpkin and lentils. Add three cups of water. Place the red meat (previously uncooked) gently spread around the bowl. Cook the contents for 5 to 6 whistles. When the steam has cooled off, remove the lid and let any remaining steam escape.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat piece and set aside. Whisk the lentils mixture to a smooth puree. I find a handheld whisk works just as well here. Set the lentils aside.

In a heavy bottomed pan, saute the remaining onions until soft in three tablespoons of oil. Add the ground spices and saute for a couple of minutes over low heat. Add the remaining water and bring to a rolling boil. Gently add the lentil mixture and bring it back to another boil. Add in the meat pieces, bring to another boil and then simmer until the meat is tender.

Dhansak Rice (brown rice)

1/2 medium onion, julienned
2 cups long grained rice
2 tsp cumin seeds
5 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 cloves of cardamom, split
5 whole peppercorns
2 tsp white sugar
2 T ghee (clarified butter) sub: brown butter
salt as needed

Over low heat, saute the whole spices in the ghee until the aromas release. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the sugar and let it caramelise and brown. Quickly add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rice and salt and cook until rice is fully cooked.


Velveteers was started by Aparna, Asha, Alessio and Pam, who are passionate about different cuisines and food in general. Each month, we will attempt a new dish and share our experiences and the recipes we used. If you’re interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment or drop me a line at You can also visit our google group, The 4 Velveteers.

Please visit our group to check out what everyone has created this month!


  1. I did not know that about pumpkin! Thanks for the nugget of information. I also wanted to comment to say how much I love your tablecloth. :) Tasty dhansak!

  2. Aah! So taht's why Dhansak isn't Dhansak without the pumpkin.
    I was under the impression that Dhansak was thicker in consistency, but I see it needen't be. :)

    Thanks for picking this one or it might have taken me a few years to get around to it! Love the brown rice.

  3. That id good to know about pumpkins, I should add it to more of my stews.

  4. Never on a good occasion? So in the middle of a blizzard is ok? ;-)

    This looks amazing and I'm going to share the recipe with my husband. May try to tweak it a bit so I can have it as a vegetarian dish.

  5. This dish does sound like a very flavorful way to use up turkey. I also love the sound of that well seasoned rice :)

  6. as always... gorgeous, EVEN with left-overs! You never cease to amaze.

  7. One of the best comfort foods in the WHOLE world!! yummmm

  8. Such beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing the info. Looks delicious!

  9. Love my pumpkin for the delicacies like Dhansak and pumpkin pies. Like the somewhat watery variation of it.

  10. I love family recipes as they are always so reliable! Thanks for sharing! Why can't you eat this on a good occasion?

  11. "This will be a sure hit in my family!Can Serve with rice!". I love traditional food.

  12. Hi,

    Was just wondering since I don't have a pressure cooker could I cook it in a pot. Could you please let me know if the method changes. Cheers.

  13. Yes you may. You can cook stove top or in oven for an hour or so until meat is fork tender

  14. want to make this but have one question that in other sites they are using different type of lentils but in your recipe you have used one why? i have heard so much of this recipe and i want to make as authentic as possible.


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