Combine the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ghee in a 2 liter sauce pan over medium high heat and cook the seasonings for a minute or two. Add the onions, then cook for another minute or two, till they're softened.
Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil. Add 3 cups of water, half the lemon (cut through the equator), and salt, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add more water if it goes below the level of the lentils. Remove the lemon and discard.
Combine the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic ginger, and chile powder in a ramekin or small bowl.
In a saute pan, over medium high heat, add the whole butter. When it begin to froth and turn brown, add the ramekin of spices. Stir to cook for 30 seconds or so. Squeeze in the other half of the lemon (1 to 2 tablespoons). Add this to the simmering dal. Cook for another ten minutes for the seasonings to develop.
This is a deeply aromatic and flavorful dal, stronger than traditional dals well suited to being a main course. Simon Majumdar stirs in spinach and adds hard cooked eggs to his version. Thanks for the inspiration, Simon!