YOU COOK LIKE A WHITE MAN!
A person whom I shall identify by the nickname Bawi wrote about dhansak recipes in general: "Just so you all understand - every single one of these recipes stinks. The method is wrong, and there is no ginger=garlic paste in a truly authentic Parsi Dhansak. All the recipes in Indian cookery books are written by pretenders."
[True enough - a lovely cookbook by a female author whom I shall not name has a dhansak recipe listing the weirdest substitution for dhansak masala. And some cookbooks written for Englishmen add pineapple chunks, apples, or potato. ]
This was in follow-up to the recipe here: http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/06/dhansak-or-this-is-why-you-should-never.html and the comments appended thereto, plus an e-mail discussion among several of us.
Bawi is a Parsi. I am not. Her words must outweigh mine on this issue.
So, for comparison's sake, I present the recipe that she uses.
BAWI'S MOM'S DHANSAK
Masala - grind to a fine paste:
One teaspoon Methi (Fenugreek) seeds
Half teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 Cardamoms (green)
Half inch stick cinnamon
Six to seven dry red chilies (more like chile d'arbol than other)
One clove garlic
One and a half to two teaspoons dhana-jeera masala (add when frying paste)
One and a half cups toovar dal
One onion, halved or quartered
Two and a half cups cubed red pumpkin
One eggplant (med - small) - no seeds if possible
Half cup cilantro (not chopped)
Three to four sprigs mint (must!)
Four to five green chilies
Boil all vegetables and dal together until dal is done. Put dal and vegetables through sieve. Heat oil and fry ground masala paste. Add dhana-jeera masala and fry on low heat till done (clarification: the fragrance has changed and the oil has come out). Add dal and bring to boil. Simmer a while longer - about 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve with brown rice (she means Parsi style rice - gilded with some onion and sugar).
Note that there is no meat in this recipe - it is just the lentil gravy. Many cook it with meat (NOT chased through the sieve), and some prefer chicken over mutton, for reasons that are entirely their own. I would add about a pound of mutton, goat, or lamb, in chunks, to this quantity of dal. Browned in onion and spices first.
[Refer back to my recipe for the meat.]
The main difference is that whereas I, cholent-like, leave the vegetables in distinct chunks and the dal slightly textural, she insists that vegetables and dal should be chased through a sieve to yield a smooth puree.
[Hence leaving the cilantro as whole sprigs - it will stay behind in the sieve and not make the finished puree spotty.]
To her, dhansak is meat in thick dal gravy (with the pumpkin and brinjal smoothly incorporated in the gravy). No problem. That works for me too.
Another major difference between her recipe and mine is the absence in her recipe of any souring agent. Nor is there any gol-mirch or tej patta, and here I must somewhat differ of opinion with her, as I consider tej patta an essential (though minor) component, along with a spot of imli.
Where we absolutely come together, with no reservations, is her insistence that there should be ambakalio on the side (she insisted, I looked it up, and it sounds delish).
One pound small green mangoes (or in any case, NOT squishy ripe mangoes)
Half a pound jaggery (palm sugar in big chunks)
A fragment of stick cinnamon
Chopped onion (about a quarter to a half) optional (some recipes leave it out, as would I also).
A green cardamom or two, a whole clove or two.
Water - two to four tablespoons.
Break jaggery apart, put in an enamel saucepan with water, the cardamom, and the cloves. Plus the onion, if despite my better judgment you decided to use it. Cook till the jaggery is dissolved.
Peel, cut, and de-seed the mangoes. Note that very nicely green mangoes will have a tender seed and the flesh will not have become all fibrous around it. Nor will juice and pulp cascade over your hands at this stage of unripeness, and the flesh is firm and fragrant, albeit pleasingly tart.
Add the sliced mango to the jaggery water, and simmer till the mango has softened and the liquid has become stroppy. Serve with the dhansak.
Note re dhana-jeera masala mentioned in the dhansak recipe: I believe this would be roasted and ground coriander and cumin, in the proportions that are fairly standard in almost all cuisines that use these spices in combination: two parts coriander, one part cumin.
Jaggery is palm sugar, rarely coarse molasses (cane) sugar. Somewhat over a cup should do it.
I posted about cholent (tsholnt) sometime last year. For your convenience, here's the recipe again:
[Genig tshernt for sechs oder acht mentshen.]
Three quarters of a cup white beans (navy).
Three quarters of a cup red beans (kidney).
Half a cup pearl barley.
One and half pounds brisket or beef shortribs, attacked with a cleaver.
One and a half pounds potatoes, cut into large chunks.
One large onion, or two small - large chunks.
One large tomato, or two small, chopped.
Three to five cloves garlic, chopped.
One and a half TBS paprika.
Two or three bayleaves.
Salt, pepper, sugar, splash of sherry, jigger of Louisiana hotsauce.
Pinches ground cumin, turmeric, and dry ginger.
Vinegar, to dash if wished.
Six or eight hardboiled eggs, rolled to crack the shells.
[Bonenkruid (Satureiea Hortensis, or Summer Savoury), if you have it in your larder, is an excellent addition - a sprig or goodly pinch added to the pot of beans has a salutary effect. Add it to all bean dishes.]
Soak beans overnight. Cast out the soaking water, and remove any grit or stones. Place in a large enamel stewpot with enough water to cover by an inch. Heat up the oil in a skillet, gild the onion and garlic, remove to the bean pot. Set the skillet aside for use in another hour or so for the meat. Bring the beans and onion to a boil, turn low, simmer for about three hours.
Salt and pepper the meat, and sprinkle just a pinch of sugar over, to facilitate browning. Put the meat in the skillet, brown a bit, stir in paprika and seethe with sherry before it burns, then transfer this also into the bean pot and scrape in the pan-crunchies after the beans have already simmered for about three hours. Add the pearl barley and everything else, burying the eggs and potatoes in the beans. Add a dash of vinegar also, and simmer on a backburner for an hour longer. Judge the liquid level and adjust (probably not necessary), then cover the pot and place it on the blech till Saturday afternoon, when you will serve it.
According to Resh Lakish, you have an extra degree of soul on the sabbath. For that extra soul's sake, please swallow some beano before eating.
Final rather silly note: If you combine the dhansak and cholent recipes, are you cooking for Parshews?