Messer Wot (Spiced Lentils)
Rinse lentils in hot water until the water is clear. Transfer to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 20 minutes. Drain well.Advertisement
Meanwhile, cook shallots (or onion) in a large pot, covered, until starting to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup water, cover and cook until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add another 1/3 cup water and cook, uncovered and stirring often, until the shallots are soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Stir in berbere (or chili powder) and cook, stirring, until it looks like a thick paste, about 1 minute. Stir in makulaya wot (or cardamom and fenugreek) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. If the sauce is too dry, add additional warm water by the 1/4 cup.
Stir in the lentils. Thoroughly stir in oil and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining 2 1/3 cups warm water and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in mekelesha (or pepper and cinnamon) and salt.
To make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Tips: Berbere, the main spice blend used in Ethiopian cooking, gets its fiery color and flavor from chile peppers.
Rich, smoky makulaya wot spice blend is made with toasted fenugreek and roasted shallots.
Cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and long pepper make up mekelesha finishing spice mix.