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The Curry House Cookbook

chicken dhansak
recipe version 1.2
version 2.0 is now available
see The Curry House Cookery Book


I love the combination of the chicken, the earthy lentils and the rich spicy sauce. The basic recipe is medium hot but you can add the whole dried chillies if you want a hot curry.


  • 1 oz split red lentils, picked over for little stones and washed in a sieve
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned and cut into bite sized cubes
  • 4 cloves
  • the seeds of 2 whole green cardamon pods - just cut the pods open with a knife and take out the seeds
  • for a hot curry 4-8 whole small dried chillies (Bird's Eye or Thai Hots) - omit if you want a medium curry
  • half teaspoon ground cumin seed
  • half teaspoon turmeric
  • half teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • half teaspoon hot chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • half a batch of Basic Curry Sauce - about 4 fl oz
  • salt to taste
  • (optional) 1 teaspoon methi (dried fenugreek) leaves, washed in a sieve then left moist for at least 10 minutes.
  1. Put the lentils into a pan with about 10 fl oz (half a pint) of cold water, bring to the boil and boil vigourously for 10 minutes. During this time skim off any scum that comes to the top. Then reduce the heat and cook with the water bubbling for a further 20 minutes. There should still be a little water left at the end so add a little more boiling water if the pan runs dry. Cover and set aside.
  2. Grind the cloves and cardamon seeds as finely as you can in a pestle and mortar.
  3. Heat a little of the oil in a large heavy frying pan then fry the chicken pieces over moderate heat until they are sealed and have turned white. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
  4. Heat the rest of the oil in a heavy pan over a moderate heat.
  5. Add the whole chillies (if using) and fry until they start to swell.
  6. Turn the heat to low, add 1 tablespoon of the Basic Curry Sauce and stir round. Then add the ground cloves and cardamon seeds, cumin, turmeric, coriander, chilli powder and paprika and fry gently, stirring all the time, for a minute. Take care not to burn the spices or the curry will lack flavour and taste bitter.
  7. Add the rest of the Basic Curry Sauce, the chicken pieces, the lentils and their remaining cooking liquid and some salt and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is done. Add a little hot water if the sauce starts to catch on the bottom of the pan but the idea is to finish up with a thick lentily sauce.
  8. 10 minutes from the end add the fenugreek leaves if using.
  9. Simmer gently for the last 10 minutes stirring frequently as the sauce should now be nice and thick.

©David Smith 1996-2004

© 1996 - 2004 David W Smith
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