Recipe: Slow cooker lentil stew (vegan, low fat)

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A friend of mine from college lived on a version of this recipe during her year abroad in Greece, then cooked it for us on many Fridays after her return to the U.S. I’ve been making it ever since.

Brining the lentils is a trick I picked up while watching America’s Test Kitchen with my mom over the holidays. It keeps the lentils from bursting open and becoming soft and mushy during the cooking. You can skip this step if you want, but you will need to add more cooking liquid and allow more time for the lentils to cook.

If you want to shorten the cooking time, wait to add the vinegar until you are about to serve the soup. Acids slow down the cooking of legumes. Based on this principle, I imagine that holding off on adding the tomato juice until the end will also speed up the cooking time. but I prefer to throw everything in the pot at the beginning to let the flavors mingle.

If you can’t find diced canned tomatoes, use whole canned tomatoes and chop them up before adding them to the pot.

The wine is a necessary part of the stew. The friend who gave me this recipe used red. I switch between red and white. I used dandelion wine in my latest batch.

Lastly, use whatever kind of lentils you like. In the bowl pictured above, I used a mix of pink lentils and brown lentils.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice or equivalent fresh
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup dry wine (or more to taste)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 large onion, chopped
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of Spike seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup frozen, chopped kale (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak the lentils in a weak brine of 10 cups water mixed with three quarter teaspoon salt. If using hot water, soak for about 3 hours; if using cold water, soak for about 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Pour off the brine and rinse the lentils.
  3. Put the lentils in a crock pot with the rest of the ingredients, except kale, salt and pepper.
  4. Set temperature to high and cook 6 to 8 hours. Add the kale near the end of the cooking time. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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