Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Greek Fava

Ever since I started this blog, I have evolved a great deal as a cook, as an eater, as an aficionado of food. I appreciate it more now because I know more about it. I have discovered new flavors, I have learned things from cookbooks as well as from my fellow food bloggers and my palate has become more sophisticated. I am no longer content with what I used to eat five or six years ago.

However, nothing will ever change when it comes to my food, Greek food. The appreciation I have for my country’s food has only grown and I have learned that I don’t need to mess with it in order to prove something, or try to make it better. It is unique.

Perhaps it’s the fact that for the last six years I don’t live permanently in Greece that has made me crave it more, or the fact that I am exposed to so many different types of culinary cultures here in the Netherlands that I don’t feel the need to fuse traditional Greek cooking to make it more modern or hip. I love it for what is.

Sure, I love experimenting with all types of cuisines and I truly enjoy new combinations, but you’ll find that when it comes to the traditional dishes of my country, I keep them very much intact. I love them that way.

There is so much room to experiment with flavors on other plains, on dishes based on Greek ingredients, the Greek staples if you’d like, but I will never cook mousaka with anything other than the ingredients it was meant to be cooked with. I leave the evolution, or destruction, of our culinary history and tradition to others, and there are plenty of them out there.

Fava (not to be confused with the fava bean which in Greece is called kouki/ κουκί) is a traditional Greek dish of yellow split peas (lathouri in Greek/λαθούρι). It is a purée, flavored with onion and cooked and served with olive oil. It is usually served at room temperature as a mezes, to be eaten alongside other small plates of food, or as an appetizer before a fish-based main dish. In my home though, we always have it as a warm main dish, simply because we love it so much. Especially me.

It is easy and quick to make, it is frugal, hearty and nutritious, and absolutely delicious to boot. Served topped with a good drizzling of Greek olive oil, and a side of anchovies or sardines, black olives (I prefer Kalamata), raw onion, feta and fresh crusty bread, fava is the epitome of traditional, rustic Greek cooking.

PS. Speaking of good Greek olive oil, unfortunately it is not always easy to find in the Netherlands. A few months ago, I was fortunate and very happy to receive a small bottle of Greek extra virgin olive oil along with a jar of Greek olives and Greek thyme honey from a young Greek couple entrepreneurs Nikoletta and Kostas of Karpos fine food who have started a business here in the Netherlands importing these goodies from the region of Amaliada in Greece. They were very sweet to send me their products and I have to say, all three were excellent. I encourage those of you who live in the Netherlands to visit their Facebook page and get in touch with them if you want to get some Greek olive oil, olives or honey. I love supporting these kinds of small businesses, especially from fellow Greeks and I hope you do too.

Greek Fava (Yellow Split-Pea Purée)

Fava can be made a little bit chunky or very smooth depending on your taste. I like it both ways. This one was made in Greece, I cooked it with my grandmother, I love to cook with her whenever I’m home, but I also made fava last week and I made it super smooth.
Santorini is famous for her fava. If you do manage to find some, do use it.

Yield: 4-6 main-course servings

500 g yellow split-peas
1.2 liters water
2 medium-sized onions, cut into four
100 ml olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper

Olive oil, to serve

Special equipment: colander, immersion or regular blender

Add the yellow split-peas to a colander and rinse well under cold running water. Add them to a large, heavy-bottomed pan, add the water and place pan over high heat. Bring to the boil and using a spoon, remove the scum that gathers on the surface of the water.
Add the onions, a little salt and freshly ground white pepper, mix well with a spoon and once it begins to boil, turn heat down to low, put lid on ajar, and simmer, checking from time to time if it needs more water, for about 20 minutes or until the split peas have softened.
In the end you don’t want it to be too runny (if it is, remove the extra liquid), but moist. Add the olive oil and stir well.

Take the pan off the heat and leave fava like this for 5-10 minutes. Then using an immersion blender, blend everything inside the pan until smooth (if it’s runny don’t worry, it will thicken up as it cools). You can keep it a little bit chunky if you prefer. If you have a regular blender, transfer split peas little by little to the blender and purée. Then return to the pan.
Check the seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Serve fava on plates, drizzled with a little olive oil on top.
Using your fork, mix the olive oil in the fava until incorporated. Serve with red onion, cut into four, sardines or anchovies, black olives, feta cheese and crusty bread.

You can also serve the fava at room temperature.
You will notice that once it cools, it thickens. Don’t worry, once you reheat it, it will be smooth and loose again.
The next day it will be even tastier.



  1. Great stuff,I love dips like this ,never made it before but with such detailed instructions you gave will definitely try.Thank you

  2. Magda, this dish looks beautiful! We have it in Cyprus too, and I often make it with my aunt. There is so much to be said about keeping traditional recipes they way they are, right? They are traditional for a reason. Though I can't help but be allured by some of the new combinations of flavours that are out there, I usually always end up comparing it to the "original" ...

  3. Yay, I'm so glad you've shared your fava recipe! I've been thinking about it ever since seeing the photo in your Greek Eats post back in October. ;-) I can see how serving it with black olives, feta, and bread really rounds it out. Would be a perfect first course for company too. Can't wait to make this!

  4. looks delicious and for me, unusual!

  5. Thank you for sharing the recipe ! I love fava and had no clue how to make it !

  6. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I love fava and had no clue how to make it so I only ate it at the taverna when in Greece ...

  7. Magda - this may be my favorite post of yours! Yes, because I think the fava looks amazing, but also because you speak of something very dear to my heart: culinary tradition. I fight this battle all the time... I see it here mostly in Italian restaurants. Like you, I want traditional foods - foods on which I can depend. There should be laws to protect our culinary traditions. And, if you change a recipe, change its name too - don't pass it off as an "improvement" of something that was already perfect. Sorry about my soapbox moment - but I loved that you said this! xox, David

  8. I love fava but yellow split peas are not very easy to find around Porto. I'll bring some from next time I'm back in Greece :)

  9. Το ζηταω πάντα απο την μαμα να μου το φτιάξει!

  10. Dzoli — thank you! I hope you enjoy it and do come by to tell me how you liked it.

    Christina — yes, they are traditional for a reason indeed. I too am one to try new combinations and flavors but nothing beats classic Greek food :)

    Katie — hi! I'm happy you're happy :) Now you can make it. Hope you like it!

    tasteofbeirut — I'm surprised you don;t have something similar in Lebanon. Thanks!

    ms — You're welcome! Enjoy!

    Cocoa and Lavender — I'm glad you agree David :) I don't know if they could make laws about it, but traditional recipes need to be treasured.

    Ondina Maria — that's a shame. Yes, do bring some from Greece and make this! :)

    Beauty follower — πώς κι από δω; Μπράβο! Μάθε κι εσύ να το φτιάχνεις, δεν είναι δύσκολο.

  11. I think a plate of legumes with great olive oil and a dusting of freshly ground black pepper is a thing fit for the gods...

  12. Magda, I totally agree with you that some things are perfect in their traditional form and Greek Fava Puree is one of them for me too. Every time we go to Greece, I lap it up. It's so nourishing and simple - just right.
    Beautiful photos as always!

  13. Simply luscious. I am glad that you can now find some good products from your homeland. I love the sunny color of your fava, which would surely brighten up these grey winter days.

  14. Such simple (and humble!) ingredients yet such a lovely flavour. It's my new favourite bread topping, thick thick layer of Greek fava, some ground pepper, tiny bit of salt and (feeling slightly barbaric for violating the "don't mess with something good" mantra) chives.
    This is quite cool by the way: I am spreading this fava on the no-knead bread I found at Cocoa&Lavender!

  15. You write: "I don’t feel the need to fuse traditional Greek cooking to make it more modern or hip. I love it for what is." This makes me think of my own feelings about traditional Dutch food such as zuurkoolstamppot (a sauerkraut, potato and sausage dish for those of you not in the know). Nowadays I read, they add tropical pineapple and raisins to this dish. OMG! This is so wrong! ;) Then again, whatever floats your boat, as they say in English. Will make your fava for sure. Sounds delicious. I love all kinds of meze!

    1. Tropical pineapple!? Wow, that doesn't sound good. Yeap, I guess taste is very subjective and you can't blame anyone for having their own, but I am a stickler for keeping traditional recipes intact as much as I can. Otherwise they get lost and forgotten and that's a shame.

  16. This looks delicious indeed !
    In my place we call this though 'married' fava (the one with onion)
    I also like some times to put garlic in it and of course some freshly squeezed lemon on top ! miam miam

    1. Βρε βρε καλώς τα! Thanks! "Married" fava is the one to which you add fried onions (and sometimes capers) on top. This one is the classic fava, which is always cooked with onion, otherwise you have a bland porridge on your hands. :) Garlic and lemon... hmm never tried it like that. Will do in the future!

  17. Ευχαριστώ πολύ, Μάγδα! This is almost exactly the way my πεθερά used to make it. The only exception was that I am pretty sure she added just a bit of rigani and she always served lemon wedges along with olive oil at the table. And σαρδέλες... her favorite thing to have with this.

    She is no longer with us, but this recipe brings me a happy memory and I am making it tonight. Thank you again! Alicia

    1. Hi Alicia! Yes, sardeles is a must, as you can see in my photos :) Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and hope you enjoyed the fava!

  18. Magda, I just made fava for the first time, but it does not taste like the recipe I had at a tavern in Santorini. That one seemed to have a sweeter flavor. Might they have added a pinch of sugar or other spices to their dish? Thank you.

    1. Hello Annis. No, traditional fava doesn't contain any other ingredient nor sweetener. It probably has to do with the kind of fava (yellow split peas) you used. The Greek ones, and especially those from Santorini, have a different flavor than those found in other countries. In Santorini sometimes they add on top of the dish as a garnish, caramelized onions and capers. You may try that and also you may want to try a different kind of split peas next time. Hope it works out for you.

  19. If you're checking, I need help. I used too much water and now have split pea soup more than paste. How much will it thicken as it cools? Any chance that it will solidify over the next 24 hours that I have before a dinner party.

    1. It thickens considerably when it cools but if you added too much water it may still be runny. You just have to wait and see. Good luck!

  20. Hi Magda, thanks for your recipe. I had to try it as I have just returned from Crete and brought back some yellow split peas. I love eating fava over there. In my memory indeed the one I tasted in Santorini had a slightly different taste but still loved both. Have a nice week. Sandrine

  21. i recently discovered fava recipes after buying yellow split peas for daal. now make it in bulk, like hummus, and freeze in silicone cupcake containers, so i can eat as a snack on rough oatcakes or as the centrepiece of veggie dinner with pitta bread. enjoyed your column.