Fáva is a velvety, smooth dip very popular in the taverns and homes of Greece. Not to be confused with the fava bean or broad bean, it is usually made with yellow split peas. Occasionally it is also made with dried and broken fava beans (κουκιά) but that dish has a light, green colour instead of its usual pale, mustard-yellow. It is usually served cold with chopped onion, lemon juice and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. But mother often fed us warm fava for a filling and nutritious meal – and we loved it. My favourite fáva flavour has a Cretan inspiration. Toasted cumin seeds and fried onion flavour my fáva recipe whilst roasted tomatoes and often caramelised onions are also paired or ‘married’ with it, as the Cretans say. Fáva can be paired beautifully with lamb but also octopus. It is nutritious and filling, and an impressive alternative to Hummus.
- 1 cup (around 250g) yellow split peas
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 – 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Salt (optional)
- Pepper (optional)
- Rinse the yellow split peas well and place in a sieve.
- Add enough oil to coat the base of a medium pot (2 to 3 tablespoons).
- Add the onion, garlic clove, bay leaf and cumin seeds, and stir fry for around 5 minutes till the onion slightly softens.
- Toss in the yellow split peas and coat well in the oil and flavours.
- Add the boiling hot stock and bring to a low simmer for up to 40 minutes.
- At the beginning the mixture might froth. If this happens remove the froth with a slotted spoon.
- Half an hour into cooking check whether the dish requires additional water so that it does not stick to the pan.
- When cooked the peas should be getting mushy when mixed and should not have a bite.
- Take off the heat, remove the bay leaf, add the lemon juice and cream the mixture with a hand blender.
- You can serve mixed in with roasted tomatoes and topped with caramelised onions.
- Yellow split peas are not the same as chana daal (yellow split lentils) commonly used in Indian cooking. You can source great quality, British grown, organic peas online through hodmedods.co.uk.
- Good quality ingredients make a great dip, so as well as using Hodmedods yellow split peas, I recommend you source use good quality extra virgin olive oil for this dip. Some of my choices include Oliveology, the Olive Press in Ludlow and The Greek Secret olive oils.
Getting down your greens is a very important step of keeping healthy during winter! Kale is a member of the brassica family and has great nutritional value. From high levels of iron, vitamin K, C and A, to anti inflammatory benefits it’s a food both accessible, locally grown and often organic.
Kale can help you increase your greens intake in easy and tasty ways. Make a pledge now to eat more veg any time of the year. Follow the #vegpower campaign for inspiration.
Here’s an easy recipe to get you started – Kale with spaghetti. When Zöe Rozellar walked into our kitchen with this idea of cooking kale it opened so many possibilities! You can also enjoy the kale as a side, for breakfast with egg (Zöe’s favourite) or with rice/couscous/quinoa. You may also add raw or cooked mushrooms to this dish – the red elf cup mushrooms from Blaencamel market stalls were a treat with this dish.
Ingredients (2-4 portions depending on starter or main size)
- 300g organic kale
- 1Tbsp. Sesame seeds
- 250g spaghetti
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp. Paprika
- 1/2 tsp. Ground nutmeg or more
- Olive oil
- 250g goats cheese or feta cheese
Preparation (up to 30min)
- Wash the kale, pull leaves off the harder stalk (if not tender) and drain.
- In a big baking tray dress in 1/2 tsp salt, the sesame and a couple of generous lugs of olive oil. Massage well so that oil and salt dress all leaves.
- Bring water to the boil for pasta adding salt and oil. And preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- At the same time you start boiling the pasta, add the kale in the oven after you cover the tray tightly with aluminum foil.
- The kale should bake at least for the duration of your pasta preparation.
- Once the pasta boils and is in the colander, return the pot to heat, cover its base with olive oil and add the two cloves of garlic roughly chopped.
- Lower the heat and stir fry the garlic till softer – a couple of minutes – taking care not to burn.
- Add the paprika, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp of pepper and stir fry for about half a minute or so.
- Add the spaghetti and a pinch of salt. Toss well to dress in spices.
- Remove the kale from oven, add to pot and stir well.
- Remove dish from heat and add the crumbled cheese.
- For a vegan version add Dukkah or roasted and crushed hazelnuts instead of cheese.
Whilst I may have skipped a month of sharing recipe ideas with you inspired about one of my favourite places in Wales, it seems that the summer crop that has done so well on Blaencamel Farm’s land this summer keeps going strong this first week of September. This year the almighty broad bean has inspired various summer version of one of my favourite Greek dishes, Spetzofai, a stew which hails from beautiful Pelion on the Greek mainland (the land of the Cyclopes).
This simple sausage stew requires flavoursome, good quality sausages containing at least leek with a hint of spice, fresh seasonal vegetable and beans. The freshly podded broad beans make for a lighter and quicker version of the dish. To replace the broad beans chose either giant (Lima/Butter) beans or cannellini. As I am always inspired by my Greek heritage, Welsh producers and my local farmers’ market so I recommend you use Charcutier’s Italian fennel or their Thyme sausages for this recipe. The stew follows the same cooking method as the July 2017 Fasolakia dish which is popular in Greek cuisine. You can adapt it to make your own vegan, vegetarian and meat dishes Greek-Stylee. As usual you can source most of the recipes at the Roath and Riverside Farmers’ Market in Cardiff as well as other farmer market locations supplied by the farm in Wales.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 pack Charcutier Italian Fennel or Thyme sausages, in chunky cubes (280 g)
- 1 bag Blaencamel farm broad beans, podded (250g when podded)
- 2 Blaencamel bell peppers, halved, seeded and sliced
- ½ Blaencamel Hungarian wax pepper
- 4 Charlotte potatoes, washed and halved with skin on
- Optional – half a pack of Blaencamel farm spinach (200g)
- 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste or 1 large tomato grated
- ½ glass white whine
- 1.5-2 tsp. sea salt
- 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 parmento/all spice berries
- Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
Preparation (60 min)
- Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it.
- When the oil is hot add the cubed sausage and sauté until browned.
- Add the onion, peppers, one teaspoon sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
- Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
- Add the chunky cubed potatoes, beans of your choice and roughly chopped spinach. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until they are well coated in tomato paste and oil.
- Add the wine and the chopped parsley. Stir well.
- Add half to one tsp of sea salt and enough boiling water to almost cover the veg and meat (but don’t submerge them).
- Stir well but before you place the lid on the pot to simmer for around 40 minutes, try to push the meat and potatoes to the bottom of the pot and the beans and courgettes closer to the top so that they steam.
- From this point on do not stir so that your vegetable does not fall apart when cooked.
- The dish is ready when the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
- Set aside for 20-30 minutes. Or for a real Greek meal enjoy (cold or in room temperature) the next day.
Enjoy with a chilled glass of Greek Agiorgitiko Wine .
In April return to Greece for culinary inspiration. This month’s recipe is a risotto dish much loved in my homeland and to make it I am using seasonal organic Greens from Blaencamel Farm in West Wales. The key difference of this Greek risotto, called ‘Spanako-rizo’ or ‘Spanakoprasó-rizo’ is that it is less complicated in its cooking process (when compared to its Italian cousin) and it uses a lot of greens as the star ingredient rather than focussing on making a creamy rice. Whilst the rice is also added before the water it does not follow the Italian risotto method and you add all the water at once simmering the rice slowly to complete the dish.
Traditionally this dish is made with a rice called Karolina. In the UK, you can find this in Greek specialty shops, but also on the shelves of many of the Middle Eastern shops where you should seek it as Egyptian Rice. It is a short grain variety which keeps its bite when compared to Arborio. If you cannot find Karolina/Egyptian rice why not try Thai Jasmin rice which I find is a great replacement for many Greek recipes. In fact, as I am not a purist, I recommend that you try this dish with all rice varieties to find your preferred version.
Chard is regarded a wild green in Greece and has traditionally been foraged. Now cultivated widely in farms such as Blaencamel it has become a staple of our diet in the UK. Which is why I am using it together with spinach. Its meatier leaves, organic spinach, delicious Welsh leeks, foraged wild garlic and wonderful onions complete this version of the dish. In fact, Blaencamel farm’s April box will include all the ingredients you need to make your Greek Risotto. A perfect gift of the emerging Spring time and a great dish to help your body detox the heavy flavours of winter!
Ingredients (4 portions)
- 300g Blaencamel leeks (1 bunch), sliced
- 450g spinach (1 bag), roughly chopped
- 450g chard (1 bag), roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bunch wild garlic
- ¾ cup of rice
- Juice of one small lemon
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- Up to 2 tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. black ground pepper
- 1 tbsp. sea buckthorn berries (optional)
- 1 finely chopped bunch of dill or 1 tbsp tried dill
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preparation (30 minutes)
1. Coat the base of a 20cm pot with olive oil and sauté the onion and leeks with one tsp of salt until soft and translucent.
2. Add the tomato paste and stir well.
3. Gradually add the chopped greens (spinach, chard, wild garlic) so that wilt slightly.
4. Add the raw rice and mix well.
5. If using chop the sea buckthorn berries roughly or crush and add to the rice and green.
6. Add the lemon juice, around two cups of boiling water, dill (if adding), another teaspoon of sea salt and the pepper.
7. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
8. Serve with more crushed sea buckthorn, some feta cheese and drizzle with raw olive oil.
Spring is here! I am writing to you from one of our local cafés. Its wide French doors are open to an outdoor terrace. It’s still light and warm and a soft breeze just brought in scents of blossom (and something delicious cooking in a kitchen).
I have chosen to share with you the recipe for Tourlou, a mixed vegetable dish that tastes like spring and summer to me. A fridge chilled portion of it with some crumbled feta (surprise, surprise!) is just as nice to eat as straight after cooking or cooled to room temperature. But I’d prefer the chilled version today because it makes me think of Vourvourou, my friend Maria and resting in the shade in her company sipping a chilled beer (sigh!).
Back to cooking! Tourlou is an easy recipe and great for using a medley of vegetable. It can be a light evening dinner on its own or served with rice, a delicious side dish or alternative to salad, and a fantastic tapa or meze. And apparently Tourlou is the same as briam only it’s cooked on a hob- here’s something new for food geeks like me.
Serves 2 for main and more as a meze or side
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 pepper, chopped (optional)
1 carrot (optional)
200g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or chopped in blender
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g mixed weight)
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Pepper (to taste)
Takes up to an hour
Wash all vegetable, peel the potatoes, and dice it all in five centimeter (large) chunks.
Sauté the onion and a pinch of salt in about two Tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes.
Add one or two more Tbsp olive oil, the vegetable, toss and fry for about five minutes.
Add the garlic, let it fry for a minute without burning and add the tomatoes.
Add the sugar and also season with salt and pepper.
Stir well and cover.
Lower the heat and simmer for forty minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
Add the chopped parsley at the end or half way through the cooking.
- For a good Tourlou do not to stir during simmering to avoid breaking the vegetable as it softens.
- The tomatoes should have enough juice for all the vegetable to cook but halfway through cooking check if you need to add a couple of Tbsp of water to make sure the potatoes cook.
- Replace potatoes with other root vegetable such as parsnip if you like.
- I prefer cooking Tourlou with more aubergine and one courgette.
- Use any vegetable you like. Okra is fantastic in tourlou but might take a bit longer to cook.
- For Briam use the same ingredients, add a little bit of water and cover a baking tray with foil. Slow cook for about an hour in the oven.
I was in Kerala in October 2012 and it was a delight in more ways than I could ever begin to describe.
One of the reasons is of course that Keralan cuisine is at the top end of the eating experiences that India could offer you. Kerala is in some ways gourmet India, a land blessed with tropical fruits, vegetable and spices and the starting points of many trails of wealth and cultural influence. If you are a culture vulture, a foodie, and a seeker of genuine community spirit, serenity and natural diversity you should make some time to visit Keralan land.
The stew dish I am introducing today is not one I tried when in Kerala- when by the way I was delighted to wake up to savoury rice puddings with egg curry for breakfast.
I learned how to cook Istoo on my return to Wales and whilst reading Vijayan Kannampilly’s, Keralan Cookbook. It is very easy to make, it is light and nutritious, and below is my fish version of it, which I hope you enjoy.
Istoo ingredients for six
700gr white fish (skinless and bones) 
3-4 medium potatoes , cubed (3cm cubes)
100-150g finely chopped ginger
1-2 coarsely chopped medium onions
1 finely chopped chili pepper
1 stalk of fresh curry leaves or a handful of dried curry leaves
2-3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
2-3 tins of coconut milk
Salt and pepper (about 1 tsp each)
Place the potatoes, ginger, onions, chili in a deep pot and add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients.
Season and simmer until the potatoes are just soft.
Add the fish cubed in big chunks, and if the fish is not covered add some more boiling water.
Simmer for another 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Stir in the coconut milk, add the coconut leaves and heat to a low simmer .
Option: add the washed spinach leaves to the stew as you do this.
Once the stew has reached its simmer turn the heat off.
Heat the coconut separately or other oil and pour it in.
Taste and season more if necessary before serving .
 You can find out about what fish you should consume to minimise your impact on our sees at the Marine Conservation Society’s website: http://www.goodfishguide.co.uk/. Look for alternatives to monkfish for this stew.
 You can add two of the coconut milk tins and some water for a thicker stew that is not as strong in coconut flavor. Or for a more soup-like version of the stew add some three tins of coconut milk and some more water.