Thoroughly rinse the lentils until the water runs clear then add to a large saucepan with 1 litre of water, one teaspoon of turmeric and half a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Stir once the beginning then stir well at the end of cooking.
While the lentils are cooking, heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a large sautè pan. Add the sliced shallots along with 1 tsp of mustard seeds, 1 tsp of cumin seeds and 10 cardamom pods. Cook gently until the shallots are soft.
Next, add the garlic, ginger, 1 and a half teaspoons of garam masala, ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of red chilli flakes. Stir well, and gook until the spices release their aroma, about one minute.Now add the chopped tomatoes, stir well and break down any large pieces with your wooden spoon. Cook over low heat until the lentils are ready.
Once the lentils are cooked, they should have almost collapsed, give them a good stir. Add the lentils to the tomatoes and stir well. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring often so the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once the dal is nice and thick stir in the lemon juice. Add the spinach one handful at a time until it is wilted. Top the dal with a handful of fresh coriander leaves.Serve immediately with basmati rice, naan and lemon wedges.
Lentils - I use dried red lentils for this dal, if you can't get red lentils then yellow split peas are a good substitute.
Spices - Be careful not to burn the spices, they really only need a minute to cook.
Texture - We like our dal fairly thick, the longer you cook it the thicker it will get. If you prefer a thinner texture then reduce the cooking time.
Tarka/Tadka - Traditionally this is poured into the lentils, I prefer to add the lentils to the tomatoes and tarka and give it a further simmer of 15 minutes.
Be careful the dal will be piping hot when cooking and it will spit viciously, so please be careful!
Leftover/Storing - Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can reheat the dal on the hob or in the microwave. You may need to add a little water to loosen it up a bit. You can also freeze this dal, it can be stored in the freezer for 3 months.
Recipe Inspiration - This recipe has adapted over the years, it's something I have cooked for my family for a long time. It is a culmination of many recipe sources, but the one that improved my dal the most was this recipe by Felicity Cloake. I switched from using onions to shallots, I never went back to using onions.
Nutritional Information - all nutritional information is approximate and is calculated using an online nutrition tool. It is based on four servings.