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Vegan Rainbow Dhansak, 31p

Authentic dhansak recipes that I’ve found sometimes include tamarind sauce or fresh tamarind, which I didn’t have to hand, so I replicated the slightly sour note with a dash of lemon juice instead. I am aware that I am extremely lucky to have found this particular bag of stir fry veg so cheaply, but I am often asked by readers what to do with them that isn’t a stir fry, so when I swagged this one from the markdown chiller today I thought it an ideal opportunity to address this particular conundrum. If you don’t have a similar bargain to hand, you can make similar by adding roughly equal amounts of red and green cabbage, thinly sliced or thickly grated carrot, and some sweetcorn. Or use whatever veg you have to hand, of course. If serving between four, this recipe contains four of your five a day. It keeps in the fridge forum to three days, or in the freezer for three months. Reheat to piping hot before serving – it is not advised to refreeze it once defrosted.

Serves 4 from 31p each, (This post contains affiliate links – I may earn a small commission if you click the links or purchase any products.)


150g red lentils, 35p (£1.15/500g, Asda)
1l cold water
1 tbsp cooking oil, 2p (£1.09/1l, Asda)
280g onion, 22p (80p/1kg, Growers Selection at Asda)
4 fat cloves of garlic, 8p (50p/2 bulbs, Growers Selection at Asda)
1 rounded tbsp minced ginger, 2p (£1.50/500g loose, Asda)
2 tbsp garam masala, 8p (97p/92g, Asda)
1 tbsp curry powder, 5p (97p/80g, Asda)
A pinch of chilli, 1p (59p/28g, Asda)
1 stock cube or generous pinch of salt, 3p (35p/12 stock cubes, Asda)
800ml water
400g chopped tomatoes, 28p (28p/400g, Smartprice at Asda)
1-2 tsp bottled lemon juice, 1p (39p/250ml, Asda)
600g bag of stir fry veg, 10p (Yellow Sticker Bargain, Asda)


First thoroughly rinse your lentils in a sieve under cold running water, then pop them into a medium saucepan. Cover with a litre of water and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until swollen and softened. If you cover the pan with a lid, foil, robust plate or even a larger pan balanced on top, it will retain the heat and cook them more efficiently.

Measure the oil into your largest nonstick pan and set on a medium hob ring. Don’t turn it on just yet or you might stress yourself out trying to chop your onions in the time it takes for the oil to warm! Peel and chop your onions into a medium dice or fine slice, whatever your prefer. Peel and slice your garlic, and grate or finely mince your ginger. Now warm the oil in the pan and add the onion, ginger and garlic. Wait a beat, or more accurately, two minutes, then add the garam masala, curry powder, and chilli.

Check your lentils and turn them down a little if needed.

Crumble the stock cube over the onions, ginger and garlic, if using, or scatter the salt in if you’d prefer that instead. Some people are a bit aghast at me using stock cubes in curries, but some Indian recipe writers and blogs also recommend it, so I think this, although strictly perhaps not entirely traditional in all circles, is a matter of personal preference. I like the flavourful undertones it gives, but if it really gives you the willies, salt is just fine.

Add 500ml of the 800ml water, the tomatoes and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil briefly, and then reduce to a simmer until the lentils are cooked in the other pan.

Drain the lentils and rinse thoroughly to get rid of the foam (also known as ‘scum’ but in a polarised and increasingly political word I find that term strangely aggressive for a wee pan of little orange pulses) and then transfer the lentils to the base pan. Add the remaining water as needed, cooking for a further 20 minutes to really soften the lentils and reduce and thicken the base.

When the curry is almost cooked to perfection, tip in the bag of veg and stir into the hot sauce. Cook for a further 5-7 minutes until the veg is softened, and serve piping hot.

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