Busy in his Aleria kitchen ,preparing fresh cuttlefish and octopus for a special dinner, Gikas Xenakis, the tall greek chef of the wonderful Aleria restaurant in downtown Athens, took some time to show me how to cook the tastiest greek fava (yellow split peas) ever! I remember and thank him every time I prepare it either as a velvety bed for fish or seafood or to enjoy by itself garnished with raw or caramelized onions and some Sifnos capers…
And what’s his secret? Simmering the yellow split peas with half an onion and one small carrot to perfection and then pulsing it with some olive oil and lemon juice.
My only addition and twist to his perfect recipe is a final touch of cumin just before the split peas are finished boiling which adds an exotic note to the fava’s earthiness.
You have to try it! This dish pairs very nicely with vegetarian summer salads and greek mezes and is a truly delicious and fundamental accompaniment to cuttlefish cooked in wine, as well as yummy grilled octopus!
The Best Yellow Split Peas
by Aleria chef Gikas Xenakis…
Wash half a kilo (17.63 oz) of yellow split peas at least 2-3 times under cold running water using your fingers to rub them. Eliminate any excess foam that will be formed at the top of the water .
Place the fava in a saucepan with half an onion and a small carrot, sliced in half.
Add enough water to cover the ingredients, plus and extra two fingers’ width of water.
Simmer the split peas over low heat for 40-50 minutes making sure there is always enough water or the fava will stick to the bottom of the pot. Do not pour a lot of hot water, a scant 1/4 of a cup is more than enough when the bottom of the mix feels sticky. (Opt to lower the heat rather than diluting your fava too much.)
After thirty minutes of cooking, add a teaspoon of ground cumin , 1/4 olive oil and check for salt and pepper.
Stir every now and then, and if it’s necessary, top up with a little hot water, making sure to add it little by little.
As soon as the carrot is soft, your split peas must be ready too.
Blend the fava until the mix resembles a grainy purée or to desired finer texture.
Add salt and pepper (if needed), olive oil and lemon juice to taste.
Fava is best served with pickled capers and finely chopped onions and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice !
Aleria , Meg. Alexandrou 57, Athina 104 35, Phone:21 0522 2633 , www.aleria.gr