Heat the water, lentils and turmeric in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about an hour, or until soft. If necessary, add a bit of extra water.
Stir in the coriander, garam masala, salt and sugar, to taste. Cook until the lentils are completely soft and beginning to break up.
Heat the oil or butter in a small pan. Fry the cardamom pods, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds, chillies and bay leaves for 30 seconds. (Be careful as the seeds may pop a bit.) Add the coconut and stir until it turns golden-brown.
To serve, stir the spice mix into the lentils and divide among four serving plates.