Fava me with love
I come from a large, noisy family in which lovingly prepared food is considered the equivalent of a hug.
A. Vasudevan, The Literary Shed writes
When we were growing up, my mother had an open-door policy at mealtimes – our neighbours, friends, and friends of friends were welcome to stop by and break bread with us. As numbers grew, the main meal was often augmented by quickly prepared dishes, whisked up from store cupboard treasures, mixed with whatever could be found in the fridge. And they were always delicious. She gifted us with the understanding that food is for sharing, a warm and welcoming home is everything and meals provide more than mere sustenance – they’re about love, friendship and kindness, too.
My mother was mistress of her kitchen and could conjure up vibrant, nourishing dishes seemingly out of nothing. It’s from her that I get my great love of, and respect for, ingredients. One of the most nutritious – and most over-looked, in my opinion – is the not-so-humble split-pea. Now, it’s true, a split-pea is not particularly sexy. It’s rather drab and unappealing in its dry form and, even when cooked, it can’t be described as beautiful, yet it is fantastically versatile. It takes a bow in most global cuisines, in Indian dhals and hearty Swedish soups.
A much favoured and tasty sharing dish is Fava (not to be confused with fava beans). Greek in origin, from the island of Santorini, this yellow split-pea-based puree is delicious, very more-ish and a great crowd-pleaser, especially when served with some warm homemade flatbread, a platter of chilli- and olive oil-infused feta and a simple lemon-and-basil-dressed tomato salad. Open a bottle of merlot and we’re away. Now, there’s only the music…
• 250g dried yellow split-peas
• 500ml water
• 1 red onion, roughly chopped
• 2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
• ½ tsp oregano
• Smoked paprika to taste
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 lemon, cut into wedges
1. In a pan, cover the split-peas and onion (yes, the onion, too) with water and cook over a medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the peas fall apart. Add more liquid if needed.
2. In a separate bowl, add the split-pea–onion mixture to all the other ingredients.
3. Blitz with a stick blender until the Fava is smooth. Season to taste.
4. Dress with a good splash of olive oil, paprika and lemon.
Lovely with flatbreads made with a moist dough of 200g flour (I prefer spelt or buckwheat), c. 100–150ml of tepid water, 2 tbsp of olive oil, herbs of choice, salt to taste, left at room temperature under a damp cloth for c. 30 minutes. Break off a ball of dough, roughly the size of a snooker ball, and hand stretch. Bake on a hot tray in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius, for 10 minutes each side. The dough can be kept in the fridge for two to three days and used as needed.
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