Dhan-Saee is my take on what a baby born to a vegetarian marriage of Dhan Saak and Saee Bhaji would be. A nod to the Parsi and Sindhi food and forkways. A celebration of pulses and vegetables. Add more as you find in your refrigerator or the market. Switch them around to meet your fancy.

The dish has wonderful heat that doesn’t bite the tongue the way green chiles (hot peppers) do, but a warmth that comes from the use of whole spices. A comforting discovery of tastes and flavors that build with each bite. That entertain beyond the bite as well. A lingering enjoyment. Simple in its putting together yet complex and layered in its character.

Video edited and digitized by Aamir Rabbani

Dhan-Saee

(Lentil and Vegetable Stew)

Serves 6-8

For the herb paste

1/2 cup loosely packed tender cilantro stems

2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1-2 green chiles

3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1/4 cup water

For the stew

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods

3 dried red chilies

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1/8 teaspoon heeng (asafetida)

3 large red onions, medium diced

2-3 teaspoons of salt, or to taste

1 med-large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1 Lauki, chopped into 3/4-inch chunks, skin on

2 1/2 cups lentils (a combination of brown, green, red and yellow lentils), soaked for a half hour in water

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon Deghi mirch (sweet paprika)

1.5 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1 bunch of fresh spinach or 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, chopped roughly

For tempering oil/tarka:

2 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon panch photon

1/2 teaspoon Deghi Mirchi (sweet paprika)

Blend the ingredients of the herb paste in food processor until smooth and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil and the whole spices in a large pot/pressure cooker over medium-high heat until the cumin is toasted and browned, about 2 minute. Add the finely diced onions and the salt and cook until the onions are brown around edges, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the herb paste and cook for 3-4 minutes until the raw scent of the garlic becomes a sweet savory aroma. Add the vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes. Now add the lentils, reserving their water. Stir in the pan for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the spice powders and cook them for 3 minutes.

Next add 7-9 cups of water. Bring water to a boil.

Pressure cook for 3 whistles and allow to cool in the cooker till the pressure is released.

Add chopped spinach to the pot/cooker. Stir and let the spinach remain in the hot stew for five minutes, You can turn stove back on on low simmer.

As spinach cooks prepare the tempering oil.

In a small pan heat the ghee with the panch phoron for 2 minutes until the cumin is golden. Turn heat off. Add the Deghi mirchi and immediately pour over the stew. Cover stew for a few minutes and serve with the tempering oil floating on top.

Optional: You can add lemon juice as you taste for salt before serving and before adding the tempering oil if you like a more acidic stew.