Fava In Lockdown - or How I Learned To Embrace a Greek Lenten Staple
So, I find myself in Greece, in lockdown, with nothing but two suitcases of clothing and toiletries.
Oh, the things I could be accomplishing back home!
Such as organizing anything or working on the multitude of unfinished craft projects I never found time for. This was clearly not meant to be. My stuff is there and I am here.
I have been getting some things done though. I’m organizing my computer: photos and files…the whole kit and caboodle. Working similar magic in Evernote with stellar results. I’m reconnecting with friends, who now have extra time to sit and chat. I’ve done a lot (a LOT) of meditating. And I have a newfound love of writing. (whether it’s any good, time will tell.)
Once the organizing was all but complete, and I was diving into Evernote, Recipes and Food Preparation caught my eye. I love a home cooked meal! (Not to mention the fact that no restaurants have been open since early March.) Scanning through the many recipes I collected over the years a few jumped out at me, like my favorite jalapeño corn chowder, lentil & quinoa stew, and split pea soup.
As the produce here is not as vast and varied as the United States, it was difficult to locate some ingredients…like jalapeños and split peas. Quinoa was right out!
Making do with fresh cayenne peppers, the corn chowder was a success. The lentil & quinoa dish was still pretty tasty without the quinoa. But what about the split pea soup? What was I to do about not finding any green split peas?
I perused the shelves of 4 small markets in town only to find what looked like yellow split peas and the bag was labeled “φάβα”, (which, by the way, translates to “fava".) OK, so maybe when in Rome...or more correctly, when in Greece…
Sitting down in front of my food folder, the recipe Authentic Fava Puree jumped at me. Not knowing what exactly this bag of fava in my hand was, I continued to the photos and instructions. The photo matched the contents of the bag and it turns out fava are not beans, at least not in Greece. They are indeed yellow split peas. Who knew?
Short History Lesson
(from Politismos eMagazine)
According to historical research, the Byzantines acknowledged the fact that “you are what you eat” and so they developed an avid interest in healthy nutrition!
The staples of their diet intertwined the principles of the Mediterranean diet; olive oil, table olives, wine, dairy products, fruit, honey and nuts which were consumed on a daily basis regardless of social status.
Meat and large fish however, were a privilege to the elite and a rare luxury to the inferior social groups. Consequently, in order to gain precious nutrients and energy from food, the poor turned to vegetables and beans. In an attempt to make use of homegrown legumes they came up with different recipes, such as yellow split pea purée (fava), packed with nutrients and cooked until this day.
Fava, called the food of the common people has as key ingredient yellow split pea; seeds of the Pisum Sativum pea variety which are first harvested then dried, peeled and split.
The fact that split pea purée has been called the food of the common people since the Byzantine era indicates not only its popularity but its nutritious value too. Split peas have been used as a substitute for meat for the apparent reason of their high protein and fiber content.
A single serving contains 5, 8 oz. (16, 4 grams) of protein which provides with energy and 5, 7 oz. (16, 3 grams) of dietary fiber which helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.
Yellow split peas are also rich in genistein, an isoflavone which according to research, protects against cardiovascular diseases, breast and prostate cancer, postmenopausal syndrome and osteoporosis. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14608119).
A trace mineral found in split peas, called molybdenum is known for its antioxidant properties while tryptophan is an amino acid that promotes the production of serotonin, a mood stabilizer and natural sleep stimulant.
Yellow split peas are a good source of macro-nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium which -among other properties- help maintain bone health, relieve muscle aches and migraines, protect against anemia and enhance the metabolism and nervous system. Moreover, they contain the carotenoid phytonutrients zeaxanthin and lutein, which promote eye health and enhance vision.
Split peas, these tiny little treasures, are packed with innumerable nutrients that promote good health and come to prove that “good things come in small packages”!
Research and International Interest
The nutritious value of split peas seems to have been known about since antiquity and they are found on lists of the healthiest foods event today. Fava in particular, has been a healthy food option for a long time as according to “The Oxford Companion to Food” fava is very similar to the ancient etnos sold in the streets of the Athenian city-state.
The long history of this healthy delicacy is as long as the list of scientific research about its nutritional value. From collective research conducted about its properties in preventing cancer types to research about individual nutrients that it contains, the interest focused on this economical yet noteworthy legume is evident.
And apparently this food is a Lenten staple.
Perfect timing, I’d say. So, without further ado, may I present:
Authentic φάβα Purée
Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos Prep Time: 5 min Cook Time: 50 min Total Time: 55 minutes Yield: 10 portions 1x Category: Dips Method: Boiled Cuisine: Greek
500g yellow split peas (18 ounces)
3 red onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 l warm water (3 and 1/3 cups)
juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and fresh pepper
Rinse the split peas with plenty of water.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat; add 2-3 tbsps olive oil, the chopped onions, garlic and some fresh thyme and sauté.
As soon as the onions start to caramelise add the peas and blend. Pour in the warm water and the olive oil, turn the heat down to medium and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer with the lid on for about 40-50 minutes, until the split peas are thick and mushy. While the split peas boil, some white foam will probably surface probably surface on the water. Remove the foam with a slotted spoon.
Serve the fava with a drizzle of olive oil, a tablespoon of diced onion and some capper or chopped parsley.
When done, pour in the lemon juice and transfer the mixture in food processor. Mix, until the peas become smooth and creamy, like a puree.
Serving Size: 1 portion Calories: 248kcal Sugar: 5.6g Sodium: 241.6mg Fat: 7.2g Saturated Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 5.8g Trans Fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 35.8g Fiber: 13.4g Protein: 12.3g Cholesterol: 0mg