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Be inspired every day with Living North
Aubergine Dhansak
February 2023
Reading time 5 minutes
This is a vegetarian take on the classic Parsi dish of meat (usually mutton) cooked in a lentil and vegetable base, known as dhansak. The Parsi community originally migrated from Persia to India, settling on the coast of Gujarat. Their cuisine still heavily reflects their ancient Persian origins. Hearty and comforting, a good dhansak should be spicy, tangy and a little sweet. Here, aubergine/eggplant replaces the traditional mutton and soaks up the flavours of the sauce just as beautifully. It can easily be eaten on its own or with some chapatis and brown rice. A simple kachumber (onion and cucumber salad) makes a perfect side dish.
  • 100g dried red lentils
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large aubergine, finely chopped
  • 1 potato, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, or as needed
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée/paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar, or as needed
  • up to 450ml cups boiling water
  • 2 handfuls of kale, leaves only, torn
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tsp garam masala

In a bowl, cover the dried lentils with boiling water and leave to soak for 20 minutes. 

Blitz the garlic and ginger to a fine paste in a food processor. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, wide pan that has a lid over a medium heat. When hot, add the cinnamon and stir for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the red onion. Cook for four to five minutes, then stir in the garlic and ginger paste and cook for a further minute. Add the chopped aubergine and potato with the salt and stir together before adding the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, spices and the sugar. Cover with the pan lid and cook for eight to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. 

Add the lentils, plus their soaking liquid, and 350ml of the boiling water to the pan. Cover and simmer for a further 10–15 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked and soft. Keep an eye on the water level and don’t let it get too dry. 

Stir in the kale until wilted, then add the lemon juice and garam masala. Before serving, taste for seasoning, adding salt or sugar, as needed. Add more water if it’s looking a bit dry.

Meat Free Mowgli by Nisha Katona (Nourish, £25). Photography by Gareth Morgans. 

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