Slow Cooker Mung Soup with Vegetables
Even though it was 84 degrees in parts of North Carolina this week, the word is out that the North winds are headed our way. By the weekend much of the country will be under the spell of an autumn chill. What better time to pull out the slow cooker and start a lovely pot of soup? (In case you’re not familiar with the term “slow cooker,” you may know of it by the original manufacturer’s name: Crockpot®.)
A slow cooker can be invaluable for vegetarians and omnivores alike, but it helps to know a few tricks that make a Crockpot® meal worth savoring.
Instead of loading all of the ingredients into the cooker before bedtime (or in the morning before leaving for work), save the real flavor-makers for when you get home:
1. Sauté dried spices such as cumin, coriander and turmeric in ghee or oil on your stove-top before adding these ingredients to the slow cooker. If you leave spices in the cooker for 6 to 8 hours, they can actually burn … says the voice of experience.
2. If you cook soups and stews with onions, slowly brown the onions in ghee or oil until they caramelize (20 to 30 minutes). This additional step will infuse your final dish with a layer of flavor that you just won’t get by cooking onions in water or stock all day.
3. Add fresh herbs the last 15 minutes before serving so that they don’t over-cook.
4. To keep vegetables flavorful, steam them 10 to 15 minutes before finishing the soup with salt, ginger and garlic, if you eat garlic.
So, you may ask, what DO you leave in a slow cooker all night or day? Legumes! (And, if you’re eating animal protein, then meats will safely cook all day in the Crockpot®.)
You can apply these tips when you cook this hearty mung soup recipe, a gussied up version of the classic Ayurvedic dish. I make this hearty dish once a week on an ongoing basis because it helps to keep the digestive system clear. When mung soup is served during panchakarma (Ayurvedic detoxification) programs, it’s very simple: cooked mung beans, salt, bay leaf and a few spices. That describes the base of my soup recipe, one I modeled after a recipe I learned from Dr. Smita Naram, a renowned Ayurvedic pulse master, a pharmacologist and… an excellent cook! She created many delicious recipes for a successful restaurant in the panchakarma clinic she founded with her husband, Pankaj Naram, near Mumbai, India.
When I’m cooking for our regular diet at home, I like to add onions for extra flavor and vegetables for a more substantial dish. It’s a thick soup so it may suffice for your meal, or you can serve it over quinoa or rice.
With Halloween approaching this evening, it’s a great idea to make a batch of mung soup this weekend — particularly if you or your kids eat too much Halloween candy!
SLOW COOKER MUNG SOUP WITH VEGETABLES
Preparation time: About 45 minutes active. Start to finish 5 to 8 hours.
Serves 6 to 8 depending on serving size
I prefer this soup cooked all day in a slow cooker, but you can certainly cook the beans in a pressure cooker in about 30 minutes. If you cook the beans in a regular pot on the stove, they will cook in 60 to 90 minutes, depending on altitude and climate.
2 cups whole green mung beans
8 to 10 cups water
1 large fresh bay leaf or 3 curry leaves
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
1 small onion, preferably sweet (optional)
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 pinch asafoetida powder (optional)
1 bunch chard, spinach or kale
1 small to medium sweet potato
1 large zucchini or yellow squash
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 to 2½ teaspoons Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt
1 medium garlic clove, pressed (optional)
½ cup freshly chopped cilantro
Cook’s Tip: Asafetida purchased at Indian grocers is cut with wheat. However, gluten-free asafoeteda is now available online.
1. Rinse the beans, strain them and place them in a slow cooker with water and the bay leaf. Turn the cooker to the high setting. Start with 8 cups of water unless you will be away from the cooker for 6 hours or longer; in that case, start with 10 cups of water. If you are home, you can reduce the heat to low once you see the beans start to split, which will take 4 to 5 hours on high. If you are going to be away from the cooker for 6 hours or longer, start the soup on high for as long as possible — at least an hour, two hours even better — before turning it to low. When cooked on high, the soup can be ready in 4 to 6 hours (depending on altitude and climate). When cooked on low, it will take 8 hours or longer.
2. About 45 minutes before serving the soup, prepare the onion. (If you are omitting the onion, skip to #3 and 4). Chop the onion. In a medium sauté pan, heat oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover until the seeds pop like popcorn. Reduce heat to low or remove the pot from the heat source. Add asafetida (if using) and onions. Once they turn uniformly golden (about 10 minutes), reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking another 20 minutes or so. When they onions are brown and caramelized (but not burned), add the ground spices to the onion mixture and stir for a few seconds. Then pour the mixture into the pot of beans. Ideally, let the spices flavor the soup for at least 5 minutes before serving.
3. Chop some of your favorite greens, a sweet potato and a zucchini. Steam them in batches, one batch for each vegetable, and then add that batch to the pot. Steam the potatoes for 10 minutes. Steam the greens for 6 to 8 minutes until tender (longer for kale) and zucchini for 6 to 8 minutes.
4. If you are not using an onion, heat the ghee or oil in a small spouted pot, if possible. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover until the seeds pop like popcorn. Reduce heat to low or remove the pot from the heat source. Add asafoetida and the ground spices to the ghee, and stir for a few seconds. Then pour the mixture into the pot of beans. Ideally, let the spices flavor the soup for at least 5 minutes before serving.
5. Finish the soup by adding ginger, garlic and salt to taste. Stir well. Serve each bowl with a small handful of cilantro and a splash of lime.