Chicken Dhansak is the third in our trio of reverse-engineered British Indian Takeaway curries. Dhansak uses lentils and peas to make a terrific multi-textured sauce. The red lentils completely fall apart while the yellow split peas stay distinct even when completely tender. You don’t need much chicken meat - you could even substitute chickpeas for the chicken if you would like to avoid meat completely.
We start with our curry base sauce and then stir in the cooked lentils and peas - I always find it funny how cooked *red* lentils end up looking pale and oatmeal-like.
Pineapple added near the end gives a nice sweet-tart flavor. If you've made the base sauce ahead of time, dhansak is nice and quick, taking less than 45 minutes from start to finish (that's quick for me).
Fresh pineapple works in place of the canned; just use about 3/4 cup fresh fruit pieces and whiz up an additional 1/2 cup of pineapple pieces in a blender for use instead of the juice.
2 1/2 cups (approx. 1/3 recipe) Ubiquitous Curry Base Sauce
3/4 cup dried yellow split peas
3/4 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or concentrate plus water)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (bite-sized to 1-inch cubes)
2 small handfuls cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small can pineapple pieces, drained and liquid reserved
Soak peas in cold water for 10 minutes. Rinse peas several times, then drain and place into a medium saucepan with 2 cups cool water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim foam from the surface occasionally. When the peas have cooked for 20 minutes, most of the water should be gone and the peas should be nearly tender. Cover and reduce heat to very low.
While the peas are cooking, rinse the lentils in cold water. Drain well, place into a small saucepan and add 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Heat to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook about 5 minutes more to absorb the extra liquid. The lentils will basically turn to mush and look rather like oatmeal.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the base sauce to a simmer. Add the add the cooked lentils, chicken chunks and pineapple juice. Simmer for 5 minutes. Check the peas. Turn off the heat and uncover when tender (don’t worry if there is extra liquid).
Add cumin, chilli powder, half of the peas (drained), the pineapple, and 1 small handful of cilantro to the curry mixture. Cook gently another 10 minutes.
A few minutes before serving, add remaining peas, cilantro and salt (to taste of course!). Serve with rice (plain Basmati or Pulao) and flat-bread.