These lentils are everyday fare in most Bengali homes. This recipe, adapted from the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, is my mother's winter variation. The split husked masoor dal used in this recipe, ranges in color between pink to red, orange being the most common color.
The key to this recipe and any other Indian recipe is the process we call tempering or tarka. Seasoned oil is used to infuse flavor into the lentils. This can be done to perk up any dish such as leftover plain rice.
Tomato is not a native on Indian tables, but it surfaces, with all its red acidic freshness, in Indian winter markets. That is when it gets meshed into this recipe on my mother's table.
There are many layers of flavoring in the tempering: I often use only cumin, but my mother adds in some chopped fried onion. There are rules to the process of tempering or what we call shombora in Bengali. Not all tempering work with all lentils.
In my home, this calls my name most days, when the weather is cool or chilly. It is also wonderful just by itself as a soup. If you want to mute the spiciness, add the green chiles about 15 minutes into the cooking process.
Ingredients3/4 cup split orange lentils
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 medium-sized Roma tomatoes, chopped (or 1 cup of drained chopped tomatoes from a can)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 green Serrano chiles, tops removed, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed
1 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons ghee or clarified butter
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 or 2 dried red chiles
Torn cilantro, for garnish