For most Greek Cypriots (which includes my family, though of course lots of other countries and religions do this too), March means we are in full Lent mode. Perhaps this period means nothing to you; perhaps you give something up.
For me, it means adopting a vegan-ish diet for the weeks leading up to Easter; and, in fact, before all the big religious holidays. Many people see Greek food as meat-heavy (kebabs! Moussaka!), but during this time we eat more pulses than you can shake a stick at.
There are exceptions to the vegan Lenten diet – I use honey in my recipes, but the alternatives I suggest in the recipes below also work a dream – and even if you’re not observing Lent, each dish is incredibly delicious in its own right. The fava is a contender for one of my favourite meze dishes.
The spanakopita is a great make-ahead, and doesn’t need to be served warm. It’s wonderful the next day, too. And melomakarona are something we enjoy all year. They are subtly addictive and I’ve never seen another biscuit made in this way. If you can't find all the ingredients right now, do bookmark the recipe for the future, and I hope you enjoy them.
Fava is a meze dish made from puréed yellow split peas. It doesn’t look much, but is a classic example of when a recipe is greater than the sum of its parts.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour
Four to six
- 250g yellow split peas
- 2 onions
- 2 sticks of celery
- Olive oil, for cooking
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 700ml vegetable stock
- 300g purple sprouting broccoli
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp small capers, drained
- 2 lemons
- Rinse the yellow split peas in boiling water, then drain and leave to one side.
- Finely chop the onions, and trim and finely chop the celery. Place a large saucepan on a medium-low heat and drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped veg and sauté for 10 minutes, until it begins to soften. Stir in the rinsed yellow split peas and one sprig of rosemary, add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pan and leave to cook for one hour.
- While the yellow split peas are cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Trim the purple sprouting broccoli then cook for four minutes, until the spears are al dente. Drain well, leaving them to steam dry.
- Finely slice the garlic. Place a large frying pan on a medium heat, drizzle in a little olive oil and fry the garlic and capers for a minute, then add the broccoli and tear in the remaining rosemary. Turn up the heat and fry for a minute or two until glossy and garlicky. Dress in the juice of one of the lemons and season.
- When the yellow split peas have softened, remove the rosemary and season the pan generously. Using a stick blender, blitz the mixture until smooth, adding a splash of boiling water if it is too thick. Squeeze in the juice of the remaining lemon, and serve topped with the dressed broccoli.