Set Instant Pot on sauté function and dry-sauté the onion until golden, adding a bit of water or broth to prevent burning (2-3 minutes). Stir in the bell pepper, dates, and garlic. Dry-sauté until peppers are slightly wilted. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and cider vinegar. Using an immersion blender, blend a bit but leave somewhat chunky. Instead may blend very briefly in a food processor or blender (use care with this hot sauce).
To the slightly blended sauce in the pan, add 1-pound red lentils, 8 cups water, and the herbs and spices.
Set Instant Pot on high and pressure cook for 10 minutes. Release pressure after 15 minutes, or release naturally.
If using a Crock Pot, use a pan to make the initial sauce and blend sauce as instructed above. Add sauce and all ingredients to the crockpot and slow cook for 6-8 hours.
When finished taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Nan added a spoonful of Harissa paste for a bit of heat, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
For variety, Nan added a bag of frozen (defrosted) roasted corn at the end. Reheat if necessary
Delicious topped with Vegan Sour Cream and served with a mixed green salad, and yummy cornbread.