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Author Notes: These lentils are everyday fare in most Bengali homes. This recipe adapted from the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles is my mother's winter variation. Tomato is not a native on Indian tables, but surfaces with all its red acidic freshness in Indian winter markets. That is when it gets meshed into this recipe on my mother's table. There are many layers of flavoring in the tempering, I often use just cumin, my mother adds in some chopped fried onion. There are rules to the process of tempering or what we call shombora in Bengali. Not all tempering work with all lentils.
In my home this calls my name most days, when the weather is cool or chilly. It is also wonderful just by itself as a soup.
If you want to mute the spiciness of the lentils add the green chilies about 15 minutes into the cooking process. —Rinku Bhattacharya /Spice Chronicles
Serves 4 to 6
- 3/4 cup split orange lentils
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 4 green Serrano chillies, tops remove, slit halfway lenthwise
- 2 medium sized roma tomatoes, chopped
- 3 tablespoons oil such as grapeseed oil
- 1 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 teaspoons ghee or clarified butter
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
- 1 or 2 dried red chilies
- Heat about 3 cups of water in a pan.
- Add in the red lentils, turmeric, salt, tomatoes and green chilies and simmer for 20 minutes. See the head note of chilies and time of addition
- Turn of the heat and mix well. It should be a bright yellow smooth batch of lentils, with just a hint of integrity.
- Heat the oil in a separate pot and add in the onions and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, until wilted soft and flecked golden.
- Heat the clarified butter and add in the cumin seeds and cook for about a minute until the cumin seeds darken. Pour the seasoned oil over the lentils. Add some of the lentils into the tempering pan to sop up any remaining bit of flavored oil.
- Serve with steaming hot rice or freshly made flatbreads.