Cut 1 onion into chunks and the other into dice. Puree 6 of the garlic cloves and keep the remaining 5 whole. Place the cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, onion chunks and whole garlic cloves in the center of a medium square of cheesecloth. Tie the ends together to form a package. Place the fresh thyme in another square of cheesecloth and tie the ends together to enclose. In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine vegetable stock or water and the spice and herb packages, or dried thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for thirty minutes. Stir in lentils and continue cooking until they are cooked through but still firm, about 15 minutes. Strain the lentils, reserving the liquid and thyme bundle. In separate saucepan heat olive oil or butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add plantains, carrots and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the plantains are soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the pureed garlic and allspice and cook for 5 minutes longer, being careful not to scorch the garlic. Add the lentils, their reserved liquid and the thyme bundle. Bring to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and remove the thyme bundle. Stir in half of the chopped cilantro. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved