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Fava

Fava is a Greek dish made of yellow split peas which when slowly cooked for a period of time break down into a thick creamy mashed potato like consistency.  The velvety purée is then mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning.  Finally it is adorned with either raw or caramelised thinly sliced red onions and a scattering of capers.  Fava can be served warm or cold,  as a starter or to accompany meat or fish.  In winter it is particularly good with lamb Keftedes.

The crème de la crème of yellow split peas come from the island of Santorini in Greece.  Santorini is what remains of a volcanic crater.  The rich volcanic soil makes for a perfect growing medium for this unique strain of plant.  After over 3,500 years the Santorinians have learnt to perfect the fava pulse, giving us the famous fava with its unique flavour and texture.  Fava is eaten on Santorini as pasta is eaten in Italy.

Many years ago I spent part of my honeymoon on Santorini.   I remember being told two things about Santorini;  first it was like no other Greek island and secondly the prices where as high as the cliffs!  It didn’t disappoint on either point.  The views, exceptional light and the beauty of hundreds of pale blue and white houses perched high up on the cliffs as the ship comes into view of the island are stunning.

It is one of those places you should see just once in your life.   Standing on top of the island, some 300 metres from sea level the vista across to the other remaining islands is really breath taking.  The sunsets are legendary and the most romantic and stunning view is to see it setting from the village of Oia, which clings to the northern tip of the caldera.

Oia, we were told, was not to be missed on any account.  What was omitted from this advice (to me who doesn’t like heights) was the road to get there.  We caught a bus from Fira.  All was fine as I had no idea what was ahead so had sat next to the window.  As the town melted behind us and the road started to get more windy the bus in turn started to build up speed,  only slowing down slightly to swing around the bends.  I could no longer look out of the window as the ground had dropped away beside us and we were skimming along the top of the cliff.   All I could do was close my eyes and hope that the 30 minute journey would soon be over.  I could not wait to arrive in Oia until the thought occurred to me that we would have to return along the same road.   I shall skip over the drama that unfolded when it came time to return.  I can tell you that many buses left Oia without me –  each time it was time to get on I would find some excuse why that bus and that driver were not a safe bet.  Eventually I chose to risk my life with a driver whose impressive collection of religious icons and artifacts were displayed in the windscreen far surpassed the others.  No sooner had we pulled out of Oia did I realise that my intuition was not the wisest choice.  The driver obviously thought he had all angles covered and was untouchable.  The journey back was done in record time.   No doubt the driver went on to to do hundreds if not thousands more – for me as they say, it was the end of the road, never to be repeated.

This recipe can be made with any yellow split peas but Santorini fava is worth trying.  Alternatively, the quantities can also be easily reduced.  The olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings are added to your own taste.

Fava

Fava Santorini Φάβα Σαντορίνης

Ingredients

500 gms yellow split peas

water

salt

30 ml olive oil

2 red onions

1/2 lemon – juice of

Method

Wash yellow split peas well and put into a pot of water that covers them by an inch.  Add to this a peeled onion cut in half.  Bring to the boil, turn the heat down a little and skim off any white froth that rises to the top.

Reduce the heat, adding a little salt.   Place a lid on the pan and leave to gently simmer for about one hour.  Stir Regularly and check that the peas have not dried out.  If they have, add a little more boiling water.

After about an hour the split peas will have lost their shape and resemble porridge.

Remove from the heat and using a stick blender liquidise until smooth.  Put a tea towel over the pan and replace the lid.  Leave to rest.  As the fava cools it will thicken up more.

When ready to serve return to a very low heat for ten minutes and add the oil, lemon juice and any further seasoning.

Transfer onto a dish and add a drizzle of olive oil and either thinly sliced red onion or caramelised red onion and a scattering of capers.

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