For a while there, no one would be caught dead in the proximity of a slow cooker. Common sense now prevails, luckily, and the slow cooker is being brought up from basements everywhere. Dal is an Indian term for “dried pulses,” which includes the whole family of peas, lentils, and beans. We recommend a combination here, but of course adjust the proportion to your tastes and to what you have or can find. Split mung beans are yellow and are also known as moong dal; split chickpeas (chana dal) are actually black chickpeas that have been polished and split.
Serves 6 to 8
- 3 cups (750 mL) mixed red lentils, yellow split peas, split mung beans, and split chickpeas
- 6 cups (1.5 L) water
- 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly chopped ginger
- 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes 3 green cardamom pods, crushed open
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) onion seeds (kalonji or nigella seeds)
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) black mustard seeds
- Store-bought dried poppadum, to serve
- 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil, for frying
Place the lentils, split peas, split mung beans, and split chickpeas into a large bowl, and cover with water. Let soak for a few minutes, then swish them around to rinse them, and drain well using a large sieve. Rinse more under cold water and drain again. Transfer to a slow cooker and add the water.
In a medium cast-iron skillet toast cumin seed, fenugreek, mustard seed, and onion seed, over medium heat, shaking the pan or stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When they start to smell fragrant, remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the spices to the slow cooker.
Add the onions, garlic, ginger, diced tomatoes, cardamom, bay leaf, turmeric, and salt, to the slow cooker, and stir well. Place the lid on the slow cooker, and cook on the low setting for 4 to 5 hours.
After the cooking time is up, give it a stir. If the dal isn’t soft after 5 hours, cook for another 30 to 60 minutes. Season with more salt and freshly ground pepper, if needed.
For the poppadum:
Heat vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat to or 375 F (190 C). Place the poppadum in the oil, fry for 30 seconds then turn over and fry for an additional 30 seconds or until a light brown colour is achieved, if the poppadum is cooked too long or becomes too brown it will be bitter. Set the poppadum aside on a lined plate to cool and drain off any excess oil.
Serve the finished dal with the fried poppadum on the side for dipping.