Traditional Greek lentil soup with vegetables and a tomato based broth.
Fakes (pronounced F*@% – yes…seriously) is the Greek term for lentil soup. It is a meal which is filling, nutritious and very easy to prepare. It is perhaps also a welcome change from the more complicated and time consuming moussaka and yemista recipes we’ve recently
impressed you with posted. We totally understand that sometimes you just need a quick, simple, go-to recipe in order to get the kids off to hockey, the laundry off of the floor, or make a dent in the television show you’ve been planning on binge watching.
It also great to have in your apron pocket a few recipes which can easily and inexpensively feed a crowd. Fakes is certainly one of those recipes. We love to entertain, often and lots of people, but that does not mean that we are always in the mood to set up elaborate affairs. Often times we just want to hang out with our family and friends, offer them some good food so that no one gets grumpy, without spending a fortune. Add a good quality rustic bread, an assortment of olives, some feta cheese, a nice bottle of wine and you are good to go.
Lentils are not beans, they are pulses, which are a category of legume. Within the lentil family there are several varieties. Greek fakes call for brown (or sometimes green) lentils, which hold their shape well during the cooking process. We have also experimented with the more expensive Puy lentils. These are grown in the French region of Le Puy, and gave our fakes an extra European flair. Fancy, but not traditional, and certainly not necessary. You should not use yellow or red split lentils in this recipe. They will not retain their shape during cooking and their taste is significantly different from what you would expect for this soup.
Our parents soak their lentils for 3 – 4 hours prior to cooking them, changing the water every hour or so (and this is the method used in the recipe which follows). After soaking, they also pre-boil their fakes, believing that this makes them easier to digest. Who are we to argue? Soaking and pre-boiling are not essential when cooking with lentils, although doing so will cut the cooking time almost by half. You can soak your lentils for longer than 3 – 4 hours if that is more convenient, without changing the water at all during the soaking process. We often soak our lentils before leaving for work in the morning and then prepare them that evening for dinner. We have also soaked them for 3 – 4 hours on one evening, drained them, and kept them in the refrigerator until the next evening when they are cooked. The soaking options are endless.
Prior to soaking (or cooking) the lentils you will need to pick through them in order to remove any rocks or shrivelled up pieces. This is a fun job for little hands so if you have any kids around, get them to help.
Make sure to buy your lentils at a market where pulses and beans are popular. If you find your bag of lentils covered in dust and high up on some shelf, then pass. They will not be “bad” but they may be old, making them difficult to cook. Please (pretty please) avoid using canned lentils. The taste and texture are truly not the same.
The recipe which follows makes a relatively thick soup. If you prefer your fakes more liquidy, simply play with the quantity of water added during the cooking process. Start with the amount of liquid recommended in the recipe, and adjust according to your preference after the soup has been cooking for at least 15 minutes.
Many people like to add an acidic element to their fakes upon serving. Our favourite way to eat them is with some red wine vinegar mixed in. Other options include fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
Cooked fakes freeze well so if you have leftovers, portion them out and tuck them away in the freezer. Perfect for those times when cooking is the last thing you want to do.
Fakes (Greek lentil soup recipe)
- sauce pot
- 2 cups (16 oz or 400 grams) dry green lentils
- 1/3 cup (80 mL) olive oil
- 1 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium size carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, cut into small chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 6 cups (1,500 mL) water approximately
- 1 1/3 cup (330 mL) tomato sauce
- 1 medium potato, peeled and grated optional (see notes below)
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- splash red wine vinegar optional
- Pick over the lentils and remove any shrivelled pieces and small stones.
- Cover the lentils with warm water for 3 – 4 hours. Change water every hour or so. Drain.
- Add lentils to a pot and cover with an inch of water. Bring water and lentils to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes and then drain lentils and discard the water they were boiled in. Rinse lentils.
- While the lentils are boiling, prepare your vegetables by finely dicing onion, carrot and celery, thinly slicing the garlic and grating your potato if you're adding it.
- In a large pot (you can use the same pot you just boiled the lentils in – but dry it first) combine the olive oil and chopped onion. Cook onion over medium heat until soft, approximately 5 minutes.
- Add carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves to pot with onions. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning.
- Add the lentils, water (6 cups or enough to cover the lentils by 1 inch), tomato sauce, and the grated potato.
- Bring to boil and then reduce to medium heat. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper 15 minutes into the cooking process. Total cooking times may vary depending upon the age of the lentils, and whether or not you soaked them, and for how long. Your fakes are done when they are soft to the bite. For those who want, you can add a splash (1 teaspoon or so) of red wine vinegar to each individual portion