Imagine a rustic home in a remote, mountainous village in Greece, far removed from the perils of modern life. The goats wander free in the fields and the sky is so close that the tops of the olive trees seem to kiss it. Days are spent cultivating the land, conversing with the few neighbours you have, and tending to the animals. The air is fresh and the ground fertile; both untainted by social progress. After a long day of physical, yet satisfying and productive work, you come home to a steaming bowl of fasolatha, which has been cooking in a cast iron pot in the hearth of your fireplace. If you are particularly lucky, you get to enjoy it with some freshly baked bread and a glass of homemade wine. Life, you surmise, is perfect.
Now, we realize that if you are reading this post you are doing so on-line, in front of an electronic device, and are probably not in a remote, mountainous horio (that’s Greek, for village). Neither are we, but for some reason this recipe makes us think that we should be. Maybe it’s because this simple soup asks that you throw everything into a pot and let it cook slowly for about an hour, giving you enough time to, we don’t know, till the soil? Maybe it’s the fact that there is nothing fancy here; no special, expensive ingredients and no complicated culinary terms. It is humble, the way we imagine village life to be. Simple, honest, and so, so good for you.
Sometimes in life, you have to take risks. Think outside the box. Blaze a new path. It can be scary and uncomfortable, but the rewards are usually worth it. That’s what we have done here. Manestra, a simple, tomato-based pasta soup, is usually made with orzo, but we decided to use pasta shaped as little stars (cue gasps). We were brave. We were ground breakers. We were unintimidated. We were out of orzo.
No matter what small shaped pasta you use, the end result is sure to be delicious. Manestra’s subtle flavour makes it a favourite amongst picky eaters, and when it is served plain (that is, not topped with grated mizithra) it is a perfect vegan and lenten option – particularly when you are all beaned out.
We love this soup. We love making it today, and we love reminiscing about how much fun it was to help our parents make it when we were young. It’s true that it is relatively simple and in terms of active cooking time, this soup doesn’t require much; there is a lot of waiting around. Waiting for the chicken to boil and for the stock to be made. Waiting then for the rice to cook. One of the key steps however is preparing the egg and lemon mixture, the avgolemono. This is what transforms a plain rice soup into a Greek classic.
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.