This hearty, almost meatlike dish gets its alluring fragrance from fresh curry leaves. It makes a great main course eaten hot with Indian flatbread and a dollop of yogurt. It's also delicious as a side dish, cold, with a good sprinkle of lemon. This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite books, The Indian Slow Cooker, by Anupy Singla (Surrey 2010). The ingredients can be found in an Indian market. The recipe is intended for a 5-quart or larger slow cooker but is easily halved and made in a 3.5-quart slow cooker.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
3 cups dried, whole toor dhal (also called pigeon beans), with skin, rinsed well
9 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seed
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 to 6 whole green Thai, serrano or cayenne chilies, stems removed, halved lengthwise
10 to 15 fresh curry leaves
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
5 to 6 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Put the toor dhal and water in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours. After cooking, if there is too much water left, drain it off. (Tip: I save this liquid and use it as a base for vegetable soup.) This should be a dry dish, suitable as a salad.
Place the oil and one or two mustard seeds in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When the seeds pop, add the remainder. Shake them gently over the heat, letting them pop but not burn. Add the onions and green chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until onions begin to brown. Add all remaining ingredients except lemon juice and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant.
Add this mixture to the slow cooker along with the salt. Cook for another hour. Sprinkle with lemon juice to serve.