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Note: Soaking lentils is optional but can improve digestibility and speed cook time. See notes for tips.Bring water to a boil in a large pot or saucepan. Add lentils and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook lentils uncovered for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Then drain and set aside. Be careful not to overcook or they can become mushy (cooking time will vary by variety of lentil - check package for instructions).
In the meantime, heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil or water, shallot (optional), garlic, and ginger (start with lesser quantity, and add more to taste as desired). Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add salt, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne and cook for 1 minute more. Lower heat to low.
Add coconut milk and coconut sugar (or maple syrup) and stir to combine. Cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes to combine the flavors (see photo).
Add the (well) drained, cooked lentils (see photo) to the coconut sauce and stir. They will likely need more seasoning at this point. I added a bit more salt, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, and coconut sugar because I like big flavor. But season to taste.
Turn off heat, add lemon juice, and stir. Then serve and enjoy! These are delicious on their own, but they would also be tasty with rice, cauliflower rice, steamed or roasted vegetables, and more.