Winter makes me want to pull out the slow cooker and get something cooking. Because there’s something warm and fuzzy and comforting about food cooked in a crockpot. And is there one good reason not to love food that cooks itself?
My Fat Free Slow Cooker Dal requires just a little bit of prep, but after that all you need to do is plug in your crockpot and leave it alone for a few hours and voila! You are rewarded with a delicious and nutritious dish for your rice or your roti, all without much effort.
One thing to keep in mind when cooking recipes with beans and lentils in a crockpot is that legumes are not perfect crockpot foods, unless you add them precooked or canned. And if you have to precook the legumes, that pretty much defeats the purpose of one-pot cooking, doesn’t it? Soaking the dals can help somewhat, but I am also not looking to add more hours of soaking on top of the four or five needed to cook the dal in the crockpot.
The secret, then, to making a successful dal in a crockpot is to use the right lentils. The kind that break down easily so you get a creamy consistency to your dal. Pink lentils– or masoor dal– are a perfect choice. Dals like udad dal used to make Dal Makhani, and tuvar or chana dal aren’t. I once tried making Dal Makhani in a crockpot and although the result was perfectly nice the udad dal never quite cooked to a creamy consistency.
I made my crockpot dal fat-free and to it I added some leafy greens for more nutritional muscle. This is a perfect time to dig up those wilting greens in the back of the crisper and give them a happy new life. Use any kind of green, really. Kale is perfect here, but so is spinach. I sometimes add spring greens when I have some left over from a salad.
- 1 cup masoor lentils
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 4 packed cups of greens (kale, spinach, watercress, lettuce, or any kind of green, really, is fine here)
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup chopped coriander
- A few drops of lemon juice
- Soak the lentils in enough water to cover them by an inch.
- Put the crockpot on a high setting and once it is quite hot add the onions, garlic and ginger along with a couple of tablespoons of water.
- Add some salt and ground black pepper. Stir everything well together. Let the onions cook until they are translucent. Placing the lid on the crockpot helps expedite the cooking. Stir the onions every once in a while. This should take about 10 minutes.
- Add the greens and the tomato puree and mix well. Add the turmeric. Stir.
- Drain the lentils and add them to the onions and greens and stir well to mix. Add four cups of water or vegetable stock and mix thoroughly. Add more salt and black pepper.
- Put the lid on the crockpot. Cook for about three hours on a high setting or five hours on a low setting. If the mixture gets dry during cooking, add more water.
- When the dal has broken down thoroughly, stir the dal well with a ladle. Check for salt and add more if needed. Also add more black pepper if you have a taste for it– I do.
- Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice and add the coriander and stir well. Serve hot.