After 2 days in burningly hot Athens back in July 2002, I finally caught an overnight ferry from Piraeus to Santorini to spend almost a week on the island. Having been born and bred up in the North, I found the scorching 'n' bright Greek sun very difficult to deal with. But what can you do, life as an academic can be tough, and conferences need to be attended, papers need to be given :-)
To compensate, I relaxed on the beach in the evenings and familiarised myself with various delicacies on offer. And Santorini has many. The fertile volcanic soil grows wonderful aromatic tomatina or tiny cherry tomatoes which are renown for their distinct flavour. They often find their way into tomatokeftedes or meatless ‘meat balls’, made with tomatoes, herbs and butter and no meat. One can also find small white eggplants on the island, known as the apple of love. Santorini has also got some distinct desserts, among them koufeto – a spoonsweet prepared with honey-soaked almonds and is served at weddings, and melitinia cheese pies popular during Easter.
I must admit though, that I found it very difficult to eat anything in the scorching 40˚Celsius, and survived mainly on water and frappes during the day, and modest amounts of food in the evenings. Luckily, I will have another chance this summer to enjoy these culinary gems, as some Edinburgh friends are getting married on the island at the end of June. I will make an effort to chase down some Chloro fresh cheese and to sample some Santorinian wines. Meanwhile, I satisfy my craving for sun and sea with some fava spread. Fava is a puree made with special fava lentils native to the island. If you cannot get hold of them, then dried yellow split peas come closest, and I’ve used them for the recipe below. Note that Greek fava is distinct from a Turkish dish with a similar name. Whereas the Greek fava is often served lukewarm as a main dish or light meal, then the Turks prefer it cold as part of a meze table, and it is made of fava broad beans - and not lentils - there (I owe it to Tülin of the Domestic Cat for pointing this important difference out to me, she also provides recipe for the Turkish fava).
Santorini fava puré
Makes two bowlfuls
500 grams dried Santorini fava lentils or small yellow split peas
2 medium onions -quarter one, chop the other finely
125 ml extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
crushed black pepper
a generous handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Rinse the split peas under running cold water, put into a large saucepan and cover with double the amount of fresh cold water. Bring slowly to the boil, removing any impurities and foam that occur.
Add the onion quarters, a pinch of salt and half of the olive oil. Simmer on a low heat for 40-60 minutes, until the peas have softened and become mushy.
Push the peas through a fine sieve or purée with a blender.
Add the rest of the olive oil, lemon juice, minced onion, chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir and serve.
Fava is great as a small meal with some crusty bread, or as a dip for vegetables.