1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add onions and fennel and cook, stirring, until fennel is softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, peppercorns and toasted fennel and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
2. Add peas and stir well. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until peas are tender. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and paprika, stirring, until paprika dissolves. Add to slow cooker stoneware and stir well. Add spinach, stirring, until submerged. Cover and cook on High for 20 minutes, until spinach is tender.
This dish can be partially prepared before it is cooked. Complete Step 1. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to cook, continue with the recipe.
Works in slow cookers from 3½ to 6 quarts
To toast fennel seeds: Place seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, until fragrant and they just begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a mortar or a spice grinder and grind. (Or place the seeds on a cutting board and use the bottom of a wine bottle or measuring cup.)
Use any kind of paprika in this recipe. Hot paprika will add the zest heat seekers prefer. Smoked paprika will enhance the flavor with a pleasant smokiness.