"Another bite” is a series of occasional posts about food, presenting the delicious local products, tasty dishes and other gastronomic delights we encounter on our tours and cruises.
After our recent posts on Assyrtiko wine and on tomatinia (cherry tomatoes), here's our third instalment on the specialities of Santorini – our guests on Cruising to the Cyclades got to taste all three of them when we visited the island in May...
Santorini fava (Fava Santorinis) is one of the most significant products of that very famous island, along with the aforementioned wine and tomatoes, as well as the local capers. Fava is made from the plant lathurus clymenum, a local variety of yellow pea (not to be confused with what English-speakers know as fava beans). According to archaeological finds from the Bronze Age city of Akrotiri, the fava plant has grown consistently and exclusively on the island for more than 3,500 years.
This unique raw material is processed according to traditional methods: ground with stone mills, matured in kanaves (the island's typical underground storerooms, cut into the volcanic rock), and dried in the Aegean sun, resulting in a highly distinctive flavour. Today, about 200 growers cultivate fava fields on the island. The low yield per hectare, but also the labour-intensive method of threshing as well as the processing and conservation mentioned above, elevate its costs. Nevertheless, each year a good harvest is produced. Many imitating products grown elsewhere are available in the Greek market, but the fava of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives (SantoWines) is the only type that adheres to guaranteed standards. Like Santorini Assyrtiko and tomatinia, it is recognised by the EU as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).
The smooth and velvety texture of Santorini Fava makes a great basis for various tasty experiments. It is traditionally eaten warm, as an appetizer or as a purée accompanying a main course of meat or fish.
Fava – Yellow split peas purée
400 grams (14oz) of fava (preferably real Santorini fava – NB: you need to use actual Greek fava, made of yellow split peas, NOT fava beans)
3-4 twigs of fennel
For the garnish:
2 twigs of fennel or dill
(Optionally you can add 2 twigs of oregano)
Wash the yellow split peas and place them in a pot with boiling water (enough to cover the peas). While boiling, skim the foam off the surface. Add the whole onion, the twigs of fennel, and a tablespoon of sea salt. Then, simmer for about 1 hour, until the mixture thickens.
When ready, squeeze the fava with a fork or just blend it in a mixer, until it takes on the texture of a purée.
Serve it on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and dress it with lemon and finely chopped onion.
Optionally, you can add fennel, oregano, thyme and capers. Alternatively, you can also sauté some onions in olive oil, until they turn a dark golden colour, pour them over the hot fava and serve immediately.
If you want to taste the authentic Santorini Fava on the island itself, join us on Cruising to the Cyclades next year!
Where can we purchase Santorini fava beans. We were there last week and loved the fava spread in a number of restaurants. We’re in the U.S.
Dear Dave, sorry for the late reply. The key thing to understand is that Santorini fava is not made from what is called fava beans in English, but from a specific type of yellow split pea. Even the waiters and shopkeepers on Santorini keep getting that wrong, by calling it “fava beans”. You best bet is to find a Greek deli (including on Amazon or similar sites) and look for Santorini fava (ideally add the term PDO, protected designation of origin, as that defines the real Santorini product).