Posts Tagged ‘Fava’


Keftedes (pronounced keftethes) are Greek meatballs eaten hot or cold.  There is something special about them, they are incredibly moreish and I think every Greek household must have their own version of the recipe.  I use lamb mince but there is nothing to say you cannot use pork, beef, veal or a combination.   In summer I eat them cold with tzatziki and a salad and in winter I eat them warm with fava.  The recipe is versatile in that you add more bread to increase volume, or add different herbs.

The summer I learnt to make Keftethes was the summer I travelled to Athens by  Magic Bus.  My friend Karen and I had talked for weeks about going to Greece overland and spending the summer lying in the sun. We scoured the back of Time-Out for cheap tickets.  One advert caught our attention ‘The Magic Bus’ – return ticket London/Athens/London £55. Tickets were only issued on a cash basis and in person, the offices of The Magic Bus were above a shop in Shaftesbury Ave and pretty shabby.  We were both nervous in handing over our hard earned cash for a non-refundable coach ticket but the thought of a summer of love was greater.  Our fate was sealed.  Hello summer of expectation.

My parents drove us up to Victoria bus station where we boarded the packed coach.  My protective father interviewed the two Greek drivers who had little to no English, the cross examination went well until they asked him if he knew the way out of London.  I could feel the chill of an ill wind whistle pass my seat.

The promised three and a half day trip turned into ten days of hell.  The coach was old, and tatty.  It was packed to the brim with people and luggage. There was very little legroom and had we known that we would have to sleep sitting up in our seats for the next ten days we would have got off at Victoria. We were lucky in that the nasty infection which spread through the coach was limited to the foot, which was so nasty the chap sitting behind us ended up in a Greek hospital.

Our drivers were hell bent on driving at break neck speed with as few stops as possible, they had a mission and the rest of us were not in on it.   As we approached Mont Blanc the driver’s behaviour became very excited and as we weaved up the mountain we could see what was an earlier Magic Bus.  To celebrate their reunion, they took it in turns to over take each other, whilst opening and closing the door shouting and waving.  As the coach climbed higher the stunts became more dangerous with the other coach’s spare driver managing to hang out of the door whilst trying to drink a glass of white wine. I think if I hadn’t been so tired, hungry and bashed about I would have been frighten senseless.  I sat there rooted to my seat glancing out of the window at the massive drop and wishing I was somewhere else.  I had gone off the idea of love.

Shortly after this we had several long delays, which pushed our drivers to the brink of meltdown.  One of their ideas was to cut the length of time for our food and toilet stops to a minimum.  We as a group tried to revolt and refused to be rushed in returning to the coach.  Two of us passengers learnt a hard lesson that we were not in that strong a position, because the coach left without them.  No amount of shouting and abuse at the drivers by us stopped the coach.  We never saw them again.

From then on in the journey was just pure hell.  Two days stuck at the Yugoslavian borders and a lot of backtracking due to the drivers being completely lost.  When we did finally arrive in Athens all I can remember is that I was tired and filthy and longed for home.

It took about 24 hours before we bounced back.  I spent the rest of the  summer staying with Patroklos in Athens.  Kyria Cisci, Patroklos’ mother lived in the flat below and was keen to take me under her wing.   During the day when Patroklos was at work Kyria Cisci would  show me how to iron a man’s shirt and how to cook.   One of the recipes she showed me and has stayed with me is keftedes.  I think it was because she told me her secret ingredient, which was a little bit of Ouzo added to the mince mixture.  I felt very honored to have been let into her secret.   I would sit in her kitchen early in the morning (to avoid the mid day heat) and take notes as she went about creating her recipes.  I might not have found love that summer but I certainly was prepared if I did!



500g lamb mince

1 egg

1 onion chopped very finely and cooked to transparent stage in a pan with a little butter.

2 slices day old white bread with the crusts cut off.  You can use more if you want the meatballs to go further

A little milk for the bread.

Mint – fresh or dried

Oregano – fresh or dried

Salt and pepper

A little Ouzo (optional)

Oil for frying – I use olive but use the oil you like the taste of.

Flour for dusting the meatballs.


  1. Chop the onion finely and put into a pan with a little butter and leave on a low heat until they are transparent and soft.
  2. Take the crusts off the bread and submerge the crustless bread in milk and then gently squeeze, you don’t want to make the bread into a pulpy ball but something that will break up easily – if you prefer you can use water instead of the milk.
  3. Put the bread, egg, meat, herbs, softened onion, salt and pepper into a food processor and give it a good whizz.  Lift the lid and make sure it is all well mixed.  You can also do this process by hand – the difference is the mince is not as fine.  For the best results I put the mixture in the fridge for half an hour for it to rest and for the ingredients to cool down and firm up which will make rolling them into balls much easier.
  4. Remove from fridge. Take about a tablespoon and a bit of the meat mixture and roll between your hands to create a ball the size of a walnut, drop this ball into the flour and coat.  Set aside.  Carry on until all the meat has been turned into floured balls.  Heat your oil until its hot enough, if you drop a small crumb of bread in and it starts to sizzle its ready.  Start placing the balls into the oil, flattening them a little with the back of a spoon.  Cook on both sides.  The aim is that the meat is cooked throughout not pink.

The size of the keftedes is up to you.  They can be made the size of walnuts, or smaller if you want to use them as an appetiser or much larger if you are in a hurry but you need to watch that they are cooked through.


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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 Santorini Φάβα Σαντορίνης


500 gms yellow split peas



30 ml olive oil

2 red onions

1/2 lemon – juice of


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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