Today is Clean Monday (Καθαρά Δευτέρα), the first day of great lent in East Orthodoxy. The date, like the date of Easter Sunday, varies from year to year and is the Monday seven weeks prior to Easter Sunday. It is described as “clean” because today is the day we are meant to leave behind sins, sinful attitudes, and non-fasting foods. In actual fact, lent began yesterday evening with the service of Forgiveness Vespers and the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a major part of lent, and the faithful are meant to embrace this period with clean consciousness (making confession an integral part of this week), clean hearts and even clean homes, as it is customary to clean the house thoroughly during this week.
The decision to fast, and the degree to which one undertakes the fast is, in our opinion, a deeply personal one. It hinges upon many factors, including one’s health, life circumstances, and previous experience with fasting. People may choose to limit only meat, to cut out all animal products, to allow olive oil or not, or to fast only the week before Easter Sunday. We would never presume to tell you the right way to fast, but would instead suggest that you speak to your priest if you have any questions or concerns about your particular situation and the path you would like to follow. Regardless of your decision, one of the best pieces of advice that our parents gave us growing up in relation to fasting was the following: When you fast, you don’t look at anyone else’s plate (they said this in Greek of course). By this they meant that you should never look beyond your own self when fasting, and you should never judge another based upon what they put into their mouths. They also always maintained that fasting should go hand in hand with prayer, confession and goodness towards your fellow man (and of course, woman).
In honour of this period of fasting, we will be devoting every post from now until Easter to nistisima meals, which will compliment those lenten recipes already found on our site, such as vegan yemista, roasted cauliflower, fakes, and stewed peas. All of the recipes which we will post in the next few weeks, with new recipes every Monday and Thursday, will be free of meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. They will however include olive oil. If your fast restricts you from consuming olive oil, you can either enjoy these recipes on days when olive oil may be permitted, or substitute the olive oil for vegetable oil.
So, given that it is late and you may be wondering what to make for dinner, or what to pack for lunch tomorrow, here is our parents recipe for fava. In Greek kitchens, fava denotes two things. First, fava is a bean, which ironically is not used in this recipe. Here, fava refers to a dip or spread made with split yellow peas. If you want something easy, creamy, delicious, inexpensive and filling…this is the recipe for you.
You can enjoy fava with bread, lagana would be especially perfect today, or with veggies. You can also consider the recipe which follows to be your canvas, which you can experiment with. If you like your fava more lemony, simply add more lemon juice. You can add some sweet red onions to the top of it prior to serving to provide a nice crunch.
Be sure to pick through your split peas before cooking them in order to remove any dried up peas or little rocks. Also, keep your eyes on the split peas as they cook. You may need to add a bit more water if the peas are not yet done but appear to be too thick.
Because everything is going to blended together, you don’t have to worry about chopping your onion and garlic perfectly, making fava making even easier than easy.
- 1 onion
- 1 cup yellow split peas
- 3 whole cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup Greek olive oil
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Olive oil for drizzling (approximately 2 tablespoons)
- Optional: chives, capers, pita chips
- Finely chop the onion and sauté it in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic, finely chopped, and sauté for a few more minutes being careful not to burn it.
- Rinse the yellow split peas and add them to the pot. Add the water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Cook, covered for approximately 30 minutes. Check on it frequently and if it appears to be too dry and risk burning, add a bit more water, 1/4 cup at a time.
- Once the peas are done, remove the bay leaf and puree using an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor. Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.
- To serve, spread the fava on a shallow dish or bowl. Make a few indentations on the surface which will be perfect for holding the extra olive oil you will drizzle on the top. Garnish with chopped chives and capers.
- Serve with pita wedges or veggies.