Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Dal with Chai Rice Pudding

This Indian lentil stew and rice desert are flavored by Chai, a spiced black tea ubiquitously enjoyed throughout India. Chai typically contains black tea, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, all spice, and sometimes nutmeg. Many brands don’t give a complete list of ingredients, but use phrases like “spices” or “nature flavors.” I avoid those. You can use store bought chai tea bags, or you can create your own chai tea bags, a great option if you are allergic to a common ingredient in Chai.  To make your own, carefully cut or pull open a black tea bag.  Add a pinch of each of the ground spiced that you want to use to the tea bag.  Use the string to tie the tea bag closed again. You can also create this blend in a tea infuser.  Here you use chai and your slow cooker to create an exotic meal without buying lots of expensive ingredients, making a huge mess in your kitchen, or doing a lot of work. This dal recipe creates a sweet, mild curry. For a more intense experience, add salt and a chili sauce to the lentils to suit your tastes.

Ingredients for Dal:
1 red onion, diced fine
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium sweet potatoes, diced into ½ to 1 inch cubes
1 ½ cups yellow lentils, picked over
1 chai tea bag
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cups cooked basmati rice
Vegetable or chicken broth (optional)

Ingredients for Rice Pudding:
½ cup basmati rice
2 cups water
¼ cup sugar
1 chai tea bag
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Sauté onion and bell pepper in oil until tender and beginning to brown. Transfer to a slow cooker. Cut open the chai tea bag and empty contents into the slow cooker. Discard tea bag. Put the remaining ingredients except rice in the slow cooker.  Add enough water (or broth is using) to cover ingredients by at least 1 inch.  Cook on low 8 to 12 hours. Meanwhile, in another slow cooker combine ingredients for rice pudding except vanilla (leave the chai tea in the bag this time). Cook ingredients on high for 4 to 8 hours. Serve Dal over cooked basmati rice and serve rice pudding garnished with pumpkin seeds for desert. For a classic finish, brew hot sweetened chai tea and serve it with your favorite milk or milk substitute. 
Update: I can't eat this anymore because it's high in sulfur.