What Do We Need?
1 cup red lentils (orange lentils will work as well)
3 cups water
3 plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons grapeseed, vegetable, canola or other high-heat oil
1/2 cup white or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped and made into a paste
2 teaspoons of Bengali five spice mix (punch phoron) or: 1/2 teaspoon black (or white) sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, and (if available) 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
1 lemon, juiced (equal to about 2 tablespoons)
8 sprigs cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
How Do We Make It?
Place 1 cup of the red lentils in a metal sieve and rinse well with cold water. Pour cleaned lentils into a medium sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water. Bring lentils to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
While the lentils are cooking, bring a separate small pot of water to a boil. Score the peel of the tomatoes with a sharp knife (with an adult's help!) in the shape of an "X." Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch for one minute. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl to let cool. Once cool, peel the skin off the tomatoes and cut and discard the tough stem end. Chop, or mash, the tomatoes and set them aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic paste and cook for another minute, stirring continuously, making sure the garlic does not burn. Add the Bengali five spice and cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add the bay leaf and turmeric, and stir.
To the onions and spices, add the cooked lentils along with the lentil cooking water. Add salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and the tomatoes and cook for 3-5 more minutes. Adjust salt if necessary. Stir in chopped cilantro and remove from heat. Garnish with more cilantro if desired.