Category Archives: soup

Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.

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The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.

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Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.

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We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.

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The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.

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The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.

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Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper

water

a handful of parsley

 

Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!

 

 

 


It’s pea time!

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Our peas are up and podding up nicely. They enjoy sun and rain, so have been steadily coming on.

We don’t grow too many real peas and truth be told half the time our peas end up in a serious muddle, the mange tout look very similar until a certain stage and often the ‘pea’ peas get harvested too early in a case of mistaken identity. We’re well aware of this problem but don’t seem to be able to get on top of it. Each year finds us humming and hawing and scrabbling around looking for the identifying markers that were carefully put in at the end of the row when the peas were planted. They mysteriously seem to relocate and confusion abounds.

Not many people grow regular peas anymore, there’s time involved and by the time enough are podded for dinner it’s easier to buy them frozen but it surely is a sweet treat. I like to eat them like sweeties, picking a few pods and munching away whilst gardening. They bring back childhood memories of sitting on the doorstep with my mum in the sunshine when I would help with the shelling and no doubt eat as many as landed in the colander.

It’s worth noting that peas began to deteriorate as soon as they’re picked, the sugar rapidly converts to starch, which is why frozen peas are so successful. If you can get you hands on recently picked peas they are delicious, but if they’ve travelled far it’s maybe not worth the effort.

There must be some massive pea farms out there somewhere, filling freezers worldwide with packets of neat green peas. I checked out the processing and came up with these interesting facts;

Peas are harvested, transported from the fields and frozen within 150  minutes, that’s only two and a half hours – 30 minutes picking by a machine called a ”viner’ which sucks up the peas from the field and removes the pods, 30 minutes travelling to the factory then 90 minutes to wash grade and freeze. It takes only 6 minutes to freeze a pea!

This all makes them the ultimate convenience vegetable, ready to use and very easy to prepare.

Here’s a recipe for a light and fresh pea soup, equally simple to make with fresh peas or frozen peas.  It can be eaten hot or, if the heat-wave comes, chilled. I like it with a little creme fraiche but that’s optional.

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Pea and Mint Soup

 

1 onion

1 medium potato

25g butter or olive oil

750mls vegetable stock

450g peas – fresh or frozen

a bunch of mint, roughly chopped

 

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan, melt the butter or add the olive oil then stir in the chopped onion. Cook on a gentle heat.

Peel the potato and dice small, stir in with the onion and add a little salt and pepper to season. Cook gently for ten minutes without browning. This slow cooking is important as it adds depth of flavour,

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the potato is tender then add the peas. Bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the chopped mint and puree using whichever gadget you own – stick blender, liquidiser or food processor, until smooth. Adjust the consistency by adding some water if the soup is too thick and check the seasoning.

Serve either hot or chilled, with a little dollop of crème fraiche if you fancy.

Easy Peasy!