I have lost my heart in Greece too many times to mention, having spent my summers there on and off for the past 12 years. I’ve been seduced by the sun drenched beaches, the isolated islands, the crystal clear waters – and of course a few Andonis’… Local cuisine meant souvlaki’s and pies and it all tasted new and different and good, not least because it was usually served with a cold Mythos. Days were about sleeping in the sun and nights were about discovering the tastiest and cheapest cocktails that flowed from every bar in the maze of neon lit steps and alleys ways.
But my most recent visit was a more sedate affair and I happily found a new love. I fell head over heels for Fakes, their tomatoey lentil soup that I gobbled up for lunch after mornings spent swimming in that magical water. Sprinkled with gleaming white salty feta it tasted all the better with the taste of the sea still on your lips and sitting in the welcoming shade.
Here is my version – it has become a Monday night favourite, nourishing, nostalgic and healthy and perfect for lunch the next day too. Make it in bulk and serve it to lots with a loaf of crusty fresh bread and a slab of good quality feta to crumble in your bowl.
Ali’s Fakes Soupa (Ali’s Lentil Soup)
Preparation 10 mins, Cooking 30ish mins…
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil or rapeseed oil, for frying
2 x cans of Italian/ Greek tomatoes, whole or diced
Pinch of sugar (this perks up the tinned tomatoes somehow)
about 500ml of liquid – preferably good quality meat stock but depending on how rich you want the soup replace part with water or vegetable stock
175g split lentils, any colour
1 whole dried chilli, or use a fresh one and pierce if a few times for a hotter soup
Freshly ground pepper
Flat leaf parsley
Red wine vinegar
Prepare your onion and garlic and heat a little oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
Add your onions and garlic and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until they are soft, but not coloured.
Add your tomatoes and a pinch of sugar. If you’re not using diced tomatoes, then squash the whole ones with your hands as you add them. This can get messy.
Bring to a gentle boil and add the lentils, and stir well to combine. Pop in a couple of bay leaves, a whole dried chilli and any other sprigs of herbs you fancy. Season with salt and pepper, but be cautious – you’ll be serving salty feta with it later. Add your liquid.
Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the soup thickens.
Pick out the bay leaves and chilli if you can and taste to check for seasoning.
Chop some parsley and serve the soup with a pile of feta in the middle and a sprinkle of parsley and a splash of red wine vinegar. Trust me, the vinegar really works with this…