Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Stew

The only silver lining in using up all your kitchen utensils, pots, pans and gadgets to whip up a Thanksgiving meal is discovering kitchen things that you forgot you owned. While putting away some of the bakeware that we used, I came across our slow cooker, not being able to remember the last time we used it. Not wanting to cook again for a few days after Thanksgiving also meant that this slow cooker would provide us an easy, flavorful meal. But looking for inspiration at other food blogs didn’t seem to do the trick – Thanksgiving leftover recipes seem to be the most predominant topic across food blogs for the last week. But for those of who neither have any more leftovers, or are just looking to eat something leaner between Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, this is a flavorful and healthy recipe that does the trick. It can work both with white and brown rice, or with your bread preparation of choice, and takes cares of your lunch for the week. The prep takes around 15 minutes, and then around 8 hours later, you’re all set! I use brown lentils in this recipe, which are little firmer than other kinds of lentils and can thus, withstand 8 hours in the slow cookers without getting mushy. Adjust the time accordingly depending on the kind of lentils you decide to use.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken, cut into small cubes
  • 1 pound brown lentils
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
  • 1/2 tsp chana masala
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lemon juice (of 1/2 a lemon)

Directions

  1. Add all of the ingredients, minus the lemon juice and cilantro to your slow cooker. Mix well, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (If your slow cooker runs hot, you will not need to cook for the full 8-10 hours. If your slow cooker does not run hot, you will probably need to cook for the full 8-10 hours)
  2. Once the soup is done cooking, mix in the fresh lemon juice. Ladle into bowls or serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Soup

 

Now that I’ve rediscovered our slow cooker, I can’t wait to try cooking more things in it! What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?

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Mesir Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)

The two words that come to my mind when I think about lunch in New Haven are Ethiopian and Mexican. For most of these past three years that I was in New Haven, my favorite places to have lunch were a Mexican food cart and an Ethiopian food cart, located just outside the ice hockey rink, a few hundred feet from my department. The Ethiopian cart, Lalibela, in particular, has a special place in my heart both because it offered a variety of vegetarian options, and some of the dishes reminded me a lot about Indian food. And even though I’m not that big a fan of injera, or the bread that is eaten in Ethiopian cuisine, I still miss that cart when I moved to Charlottesville. When I further found out that there was literally no place serving Ethiopian food in Charlottesville, I decided it was time to experiment and try making some on my own.

So I started with one of my favorites – mesir wat. Its main ingredient is red lentils, also sold in Indian stores as masoor dal. The stew has a kick to it, which comes from berbere, a chili-spice blend. The main heat in berbere comes from paprika, which is not a particularly hot spice (like cayenne), and can therefore be used in large amounts without fear of making the dish too hot. Though I purchased a pre-made blend of berbere, you can also make it on your own – here’s a recipe for berbere by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, whom I had the luck of talking to for a few minutes at his restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster! As someone who is fascinated by his Ethiopian and Swedish influences in his food (besides his good lucks which make me swoon!), I highly recommend reading his autobiography, which details his journey from Ethiopia to Sweden to Harlem. He also frequently uses berbere in many of the dishes at his restaurant, including one of my favorites, the Fried Yard Bird.

Mesir Wat takes less than an hour to make, and is quite healthy, with red lentils being high in protein and iron.

Mesir Wat

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 and 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 tbsp berbere spice
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt, to taste (Most berbere seasonings already contain some salt, so be wary of adding any salt to the dish before tasting it)

Directions

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium sauce pan. Add onions, cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and ginger paste and cook for 1 minute. Next add tomato puree and berbere spice, cardamon, paprika and cumin, cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out. Add salt, if needed, and cayenne, if an additional kick is required.
  • Serve with injera or rice.

 

Yellow Split Pea Soup

Yellow split pea soup (called Chana Dal or Chane ki Dal in North Indian cuisine) was one of my favorite dishes growing up. You can make it watery enough to just have as a soup on its own, or you can have a thicker version, and have it with some rice. I’m a big fan of the latter because I think it’s great comfort food on a cold winter evening.

Yellow split peas normally take a while to soften, so you should soak them in water for a few hours before cooking, or boil them for a few hours. Once they’ve been softened though, then it takes only around 20 minutes to make the entire soup. Top it off with some lemons and cilantro and serve warm over rice!

Yellow split pea soup, or chane ki dal

Yellow split pea soup, or chane ki dal

Ingredients

I normally like my dal a bit spicy, and if that’s not your style, I would suggest cutting down on the chili powder and garam masala.

  • 1 + 1/4 cup chana dal or yellow split peas
  • 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 4 tablespoon tomato paste + 3/4 cup water or 1 cup grated fresh juicy tomato
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 pieces clove
  • fresh cilantro/coriander + some thinly sliced green chili pepper for garnish (optional)
  • fresh lemon juice to finish it off right before serving

Directions

  • Heat oil in a deep saucepan
  • Add the onions, cumin seeds and garlic into the saucepan and saute until onions have caramelized. Mix the ginger and the tomato paste into this mixture. Cook for 3-5 minutes on medium to high heat, making sure the mix at the bottom of the pan does not start to burn. So give it a stir once in a while.
  • When the oil starts to separate and most of the water has evaporated reducing the mix, add the lentils to the pan. Make sure these are just the lentils, and the water in which they were soaked/boiled has been drained.
  • Add 4-5 cups of water (depending in how soupy you want the lentils to be), cover and cook (or cook in the pressure cooker or slow cooker) until the lentils are tender but not mushed. Before covering the container, add all the spices in. Check after 15 minutes or so to see if the seasoning is to your taste.
  • When the lentils appear to be soft and the soup has attained the consistency that you want, add cilantro and fresh lemon juice. Serve hot with rice or flat bread or any crusty bread.