If you use Penzey's Berbere spice, start with 1 or two teaspoons. It's very hot. I put a tad over 1 tablespoon in and it's rather hot. I like pretty spicy food so I thought I was being conservative. There's not a lot of flavor to the dish outside of the heat. I, too, would cook the lentils separately. They are total mush after 8 hours. Don't think I would make this again.