1-1/2 cups (8-3/4 ounces) dried split red lentils
1/4 cup canola oil
1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
3 teaspoons berbere
1/4 teaspoon ground nigella seeds (also called Charnushka)
2 cups water, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon mekelesha spice blend
MEKELESHA SPICE BLEND
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the mekelesha spice blend: In a small bowl, blend the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. You’ll only need 1/2 teaspoon for this recipe. (Store the rest in a cool, dry place for future misir wot batches or other stews and curries.)
Make the lentils: Place the lentils in a large bowl or colander, and pick over and discard any debris. Rinse the lentils until the water runs mostly clear (a little cloudy is okay, but you’ll see it turn from almost white to much more transparent as you go).
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, add the oil, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the berbere and nigella, and cook for another minute.
Stir in the lentils until well mixed, then add 2 cups of water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, or as needed, to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally, adding water to ensure the lentils cook through and the dish doesn’t dry out. If you prefer a soupier stew, use more water. Cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 12 minutes. (You can choose to cook the lentils longer, or gently mash them, if you want them broken down more.)
When the lentils are done, stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of the mekelesha spice blend.
Remove from the heat.
(Optional) Serve with yogurt on the side to cut the spiciness.
Where to Buy: Berbere and nigella (also known as black cumin, black caraway, kalonji and charnuska) are available at Ethiopian markets and online from retailers such as Penzeys.