There are so many ways to make great dal. Every region, even every family has its own special combination of spices and technique. This one is an amalgamation of cooking tips from friends, as well recipes I've consulted, and just flat out cooking the recipe over and over again and each version gets a little bit better! So feel free to add or modify to your taste.
I would recommend having your spices out and ready, the early part of the cooking process happens pretty quickly so it helps to have everything measured out and ready to go. Ready your seeds in one dish, ready your ground spices in another, and ready your garlic/ginger/chili in another.
3 tbs coconut oil (or other cooking oil) 1 package dried red lentils 1 large carrot 2 fist sized yellow potatoes 1/2 onion 1 tomato Opt: Handful of spinach 1 tbs whole brown mustard seeds 1 tbs whole cumin seeds 1 clove garlic, minced 1” piece of ginger, minced a few slices of fresh chili, jalepeno or other 1 tbs turmeric 1 tbs cumin 1/2 tbs coriander 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 5-7 cups water
1. Heat oil in large wok or other large pot, bring up to med high temperature. Throw in the seeds, and cook just one minute or so until the seeds start to crackle. Then add the garlic/ginger/chili and stir for about a minute. Then add the ground spices and stir.
2. Add onions and tomatoes, and 2 pinches of salt, and cook until the onions start to turn translucent and are coated with spice. Add the potatoes and carrots and stir until coated. Add lentils and water, cover and bring to a boil, reduce and simmer on low heat until the veggies are soft and the lentils are cooked through. (Add more water if needed.) This should take about 30 minutes.
3. If you are adding spinach, add it last, fold into the dal just before serving.
Serve by itself or over rice, and garnish with fresh cilantro and lime.