Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Red Lentil Stew in the slow cooker

As I was going through our fridge and devising a menu and shopping list for the week, I discovered that I had a small amount of butternut squash left over from when I had roasted part of it a few weeks ago. I also discovered that I have several sweet potatoes on their last leg, and while my bean stores are a little low as of late, I have a lot of red lentils. I then took a recipe that I really liked (Red Lentil Dhal from The Post Punk Kitchen) and decided to merge them and pray for the best :). Lo and behold, a yummy stew unfolded! The hubby was not a huge fan, but he doesn't tend to like my forays into Indian cuisine. It was spicy, but the sweet potatoes and squash lent it a subtle sweetness.

Here are a couple really bad pictures.... (the baby was throwing up this evening, and I forgot to grab a picture until I was cleaning up and putting it in the fridge)

... and the recipe...

Red Lentil Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Winter Squash
2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
2 black peppercorns (optional)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 large carrot, diced
2 small sweet potatoes, diced or cubed depending on your preference
1/4 butternut squash, diced or cubed depending on your preference
2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes (I used cans with no salt added)
1 cup dry red lentils
3 cups water
3 small cubes veggie bouillon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (if you are making this for kids, you may want to start with just a pinch or leave it out altogether and offer it at the t
1 tsp. salt, or more/less to taste

Combine all spices (except the peppercorns) into a small or medium size skillet and toast over medium-low heat until the mustard seeds start to pop. Stir them or shake the skillet occasionally to prevent them from burning. 

While the spices are toasting, heat the oil 
over medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until they just turn translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple minutes more, or until your onions are caramelized. Remove from heat and pour the onion mixture into your slow cooker.  Put your carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash in the slow cooker next.

At this point, the spices should be finished toasting. Remove them from the heat and place into a coffee grinder or spice mill.  Add the peppercorns and grind until you have a fine powder. Pour the powder into the slow cooker atop the veggies.  Here's a pic of the spices before they were ground.... (your mustard seeds will turn a purplish-gray color when they are toasted)
Next, pour the two cans of tomatoes (including the juice in the can) over the veggies and spice mixture and then add the lentils. Pour 3 cups of water into the slow cooker and add your veggie bouillon cubes. Add cayenne and salt (if using).  Stir to combine all the ingredients. Cook on high for two hours, stirring occasionally if you are able, and then cook on low for four hours. 

The stew will thicken considerably in the last hour of cooking, and the lentils and tomatoes will almost dissolve in it. Serve over rice or by itself.  This recipe serves four hungry people if it is being eaten with no or few accompaniments, but it could easily be stretched to feed eight. I hope you enjoy!

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