There are endless ways to season a dal. In my family, a tadka of black pepper and burnt garlic is added at the very end of cooking to bring an astringent bite to the velvety slip of puréed lentils. In this recipe, Neela brings the lush acidity of lemon to tender pink lentils and cooks them until creamy in a slow cooker.
This isn't a set-it-and-forget-it kind of slow-cooker recipe. Cook it on high and it buys you two hours of hands-off cooking. You can prepare it on low to extend the time to five hours if you need to buy a few more hours. Either way, the low heat of the slow cooker transforms the pink lentils into a ginger- and lemon-scented pool — one that can be enjoyed on its own as a soup, or spooned over basmati rice as a hearty vegetarian gravy.
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 cups pink lentils (also known as Turkish lentils)
4 1/2 to 5 cups hot water
1 small yellow onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, sliced in thin rounds
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 or 3 serrano chiles, sliced in thin rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk
For the tadka:
1 1/2 tablespoons ghee
1 heaping teaspoon brown mustard seeds
6 or 7 fresh kari (curry) leaves (see Recipe Notes)
Before prepping the ingredients, turn the slow cooker on to the high setting for 15 minutes, until the insert is warmed through.
Pick over the lentils for any foreign objects. Wash the lentils in a bowl in several changes of water until the last wash runs almost clear. Place the lentils, along with the water, onion, garlic, ginger, chiles, and salt, in the cooker. Stir well and set to cook on high for 2 1/2 hours. When the lentils are cooked, they will be pale yellow in color. Add the lemon juice, stir, and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice if preferred. Add the milk and stir.
To make the tadka, heat the ghee in a small saucepan or skillet, with a lid handy. Tilt the pan to form a pool, add the mustard seeds and kari leaves, and cover immediately.
Once the seeds have finished sputtering, add the tadka to the lentils, stir, and serve hot.
- Because of their distinct flavor, curry leaves don't have a direct substitution. If you can't find curry leaves at a local Indian grocery store, it's possible to purchase curry leaves online or sometimes from your local Indian restaurant. If you can't find curry leaves, leave them out of the recipe.
Reprinted with permission from The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press.