Excellent Table’s Spicy Red Lentils (Serves 2)

by Danielle Bussone

This was a very entertaining conversation with Haregewin Bekele. I was never able to divine exact proportions of ingredients from her, however, I’ve listed the ingredients and have prepared this delicious dish following Haregewin’s directions. The amount of berbere spice you choose to use is a personal choice.  I like it quite spicy, you may not.  The proportions  of ingredients of berbere vary but, essentially, it includes cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, black pepper, allspice, dried hot red chili powder (cayenne is fine), fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, turmeric, paprika and salt.



1 medium sized red onion (Shred it into a pulp, similar to the texture of apple sauce)

dash powdered garlic

dash powdered ginger

1- 3 teaspoons Berbere spice (These can be found on line in many locations.  Amazon carries several varieties.)

salt to taste



“You want to shred the onion to almost a liquid state, to a pulp.  It should be similar to the texture of apple sauce. Then you put it on the stove in a pan and you cook the onion.  This process is called “sweating” the onion. Cook on a very low heat and always keep it covered to preserve the flavor.

Add a dash or powdered garlic and ginger. You just sauté it.  Fire is no good for food.  You just cook it slow,” says Haregewin.

“While you are doing that, you boil the lentils in 1 1/2 cups water.  Like I say, a half a cup is good for two people. Once the lentils come to a boil, you turn off the stove.  You don’t want it to become mushy. What you are looking for is the lentils should still be a little orange in the middle and the outside of the lentils should be more well done, a bit lighter.

Mix the berbere with water and a little salt until it forms a paste. Put some berber into the onion sauce.  Dump the lentils into the berbere/onion mixture. Let simmer.  Add water if necessary.  If the edge of the pan begins bubbling, it is time to turn the burner off.  The secret is not too much water, not too much fire. Ten to fifteen minutes to cook the whole thing, tops.”

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