Fava, a common item in a taverna, is a delicious purée of split peas served alongside meat, fish or vegetable dishes. People often mistake it for a purée of fava beans, also known as broad beans or English beans. And though it is possible to do a purée with broad beans, it doesn’t taste as good as fava.
Looking like a cross between a lentil and a pea, split peas have been cultivated since Antiquity. And for good reason: these small peas are packed with isoflavones, vitamin B, protein, soluble fiber and virtually no fat. It is said that the legume was cultivated in Greece as early as 6000 BC and that it was common to see vendors in the streets of Athens vending hot split pea soup.
Nowadays, the split pea is grown everywhere in the country, but Santorini is most famous for their cultivation. Indeed, according to excavations done in Akrotiri, an ancient settlement destroyed following a volcanic eruption on Santorini around about 1627 BC, the split pea plant has grown on the island for more than 3,500 years. The rich volcanic soil and intense sun are perhaps the reason why the yellow split peas from Santorini have acquire the Protected Designation of Origin label by the European Union.
The dish is available all-year around but definitely during Lent as one of the best fasting-friendly dishes, as the devout refrain from eating meat, fish, dairy or eggs.
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Here is a recipe sourced from saveur.com should you want to try this tasty dish for yourself.
Fava (Split Pea Purée)
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
450 grams of yellow split peas, rinsed
2 large red onions, peeled and finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice or 3–4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 1⁄2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, preferably from Kalamata
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Put split peas, three-quarters of the onions, and 7 cups water into a heavy medium pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, skimming foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and peas have broken apart, 1–1 1⁄2 hours. Stir peas more frequently during last 15 minutes of cooking to prevent them from scorching. Season to taste with salt about 5 minutes before finished cooking.
- Remove pot from heat. Vigorously stir peas while gradually adding lemon juice and half of the oil. Cover pot with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to let purée cool (it will thicken as it as it cools), 3-4 hours.
- Stir purée again, season to taste with salt, and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle parsley and remaining onions on top and drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with crusty bread and Kalamata olives, if you like.