I spent a couple of weeks in Crete rediscovering the tastes and smells from my early days there. It was surprising to find that the food which brought back the most memories was not the most memorable itself.
Sitting at a table by the sea, I looked at the myriad of plates and began to add this and that to my own. There was one dish, however, which I mistook for houmous until I tasted it. I dipped in some beautiful bread and suddenly I was four years old again. The taste was rich and comforting and so familiar. “What is this? I recognise the taste, but I don’t know it’s name”. It was fava.
The reason that I love fava so much is because it is a fantastic vehicle for olive oil. It’s very simple to make and there are very few ingredients. The main ingredient is yellow split lentils. When cooked down to a thick consistency, they carry the flavour of extra-virgin olive oil like few other foods can. If peasant food isn’t your thing, or you don’t care for the taste of good olive oil, this is perhaps your time to bail and return when there’s a pudding recipe (next week). If you are like me and crave the good stuff, then fava is a truly wonderful way to make use of that oil in your cupboard reserved for only your best dishes. Will fava wow your friends at a dinner party? Nope, but your tummy will love it!
250g yellow split peas
2 onions (sliced)
1 garlic clove (chopped)
extra-virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
Rinse the split peas in cold water and then put them into a pan of boiling water with the onions. Bring back to the boil and simmer. I usually put just enough water in to cover the peas and then add more as it is absorbed. When the split peas are thick and mushy, I transfer them to a container that I can use my hand blender in without getting spattered. I add the garlic, lemon juice and a lot of extra-virgin olive oil and blitz it. The fava should be soft and full of the flavour of the oil. Be careful not to add too much lemon juice and then season with a little salt until you’re happy with it.
I like eating fava on its own, but it’s also great served alongside fish and any Greek dishes. Drizzle more oil onto it just before serving. Fava refrigerates well and can be brought back to life in the microwave and the addition of (yet more) olive oil. Serving it warm, rather than hot is the way to go. So grab a chunk of your favourite bread and dive into my favourite comfort food!