Place the lentils in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Massage the lentils with your hands to remove any dirt or debris. Rinse the lentils a few times until the water runs clear. This may require several rinses. Soak the lentils in lukewarm water for approximately 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the onions and tomatoes to a large pot and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the olive oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Make sure the onions do not get too dark. Add the berbere and continue to cook until the berbere is fully combined with the onion and tomato mixture, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water and cook the tomato, onion and berbere mixture until it reduces and begins to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to bring up the stuck tomatoes and onions. Add another 1 cup water and allow the mixture to reduce again for another 10 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot. Add 1 cup water more, reduce again for 10 minutes then scrape the bottom of the pot (Adding and reducing 3 times will give your lentils a rich and layered flavor.) Be sure not to step away from the pot during this process. As Azla says, "Misir wot has jealous tendencies and wants your full, undivided attention from start to finish."
Strain the soaked lentils in a colander and allow them to drain for a few minutes. Meanwhile, add 8 cups water to the pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Finish with the ground nutmeg and sea salt to taste. Serve with injera or your favorite whole grain.
You can find berbere spice mixture at your local Ethiopian market, or online at azlavegan.com.
This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional. It has not been tested for home use.