Six ways with lentils: from vegetarian ragu to speedy dal

Lentils are flexible, nutritional powerhouses – for around 18 cents per serve. Given their dazzling range, how do you pick the perfect pulse for your dish?

In the wild Abruzzo region of Italy, a rare variety of lentil grows in steep, narrow plots on the slopes of the Gran Sasso mountains. Watered by snow-fed streams and hand harvested by elderly farmers, the Santo Stefano lentil is so venerated it has its own festival. In France, the du Puy lentil, a variety brought over by the Romans some 2,000 years ago and known as “the caviar of lentils”, has been given an appellation origin contrôlée (AOC) status.

Australians are probably more prosaic about the lentil, but with inflation and bitter weather biting, the low spend-per-plate (a packet of supermarket lentils retails for around $2 for 375g, and when cooked they yield a price of just 18 cent per 200g serve) and gratifyingly long shelf life means it has a cost-to-comfort ratio that is difficult to top.

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