Preparation / Directions:
* Key spice: Panch Phanon Mix, also known as Five Spice (do not substitute Chinese Five Spice!) Equal proportions of whole cumin, fenugreek, anise, mustard, "Indian black onion" seeds (kalunji). You will need to go to an Indian Store to get the last ingredient. It is not related to the onion.
There are three basic steps to this recipe: cooking the lentils in water, making a tomato/onion/ginger mush, and making a spiced oil.
1. Rinse lentils well, add water, serrano chiles, turmeric and salt. Bring carefully to boil and cook over low to medium heat, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Adjust salt.
2. While lentils are cooking, cook onions in a frying pan in the oil until they are golden brown (approximately 10 minutes), stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and ginger and continue cooking until the tomatoes decompose into a delicious and fragrant mush (approximately 8 minutes.) Stir constantly so that tomato mixture doesn't stick. Turn heat to low if necessary.
3. Scrape out this mush into the lentils and stir it in. Let lentils sit while you make the spiced oil.
4. Do a quick rinse of the frying pan, without soap, and dry thoroughly. Add the remaining 2T oil and heat over medium high heat. When oil is hot add panch phanon mix and heat until the seeds begin to pop, about 15 seconds. Add red chiles and fry for another 15 seconds, until they turn a little darker. Turn off heat and add the crushed garlic and let sizzle for about 30 seconds. Stir this mixture into the lentil/tomato mixture and serve with rice. Adjust salt.
Author's note: Using ghee changes the taste compared with oil. I prefer it for step 4. It tastes good either way thoug