Fava with Sifnos-inspired onions and capers

Photo: Armelle Habib

Part of any great mezze spread, in Greece fava refers to a yellow split-pea dip that's smooth, satisfying and a vehicle for all kinds of  textural toppings. In this case, it's caramelised onions and punchy capers. Make sure fava is part of your next party with this recipe.

"When I was in Sifnos a couple of years ago, they did this thing where they take equal quantities of onions and capers, throw them into a pot with olive oil, and stew them until they connect and become like one ingredient," says George Calombaris. "It gets spooned over the top of yellow split-pea dip called fava (which is a little confusing, since we sometimes refer to broad beans as fava). Yum. The food on Sifnos is really good – I recommend you go there and eat."

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

440g (2 cups) yellow split peas

350ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

3 onions, 1 chopped, 2 sliced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2tbsp sherry vinegar

40g (¼ cup) baby capers, drained and rinsed

Grilled pita, to serve

Method

  1. Rinse the split peas in a sieve under warm water until the water runs clear. 
  2. Heat 50 ml of the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 3–4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute until fragrant. Add the peas, along with 1.5 litres (6 cups) water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 35–40 minutes until the split peas are soft. Strain, reserving 125 ml (½ cup) of the cooking liquid. Transfer the peas to a blender and blend with 100 ml of the oil and the sherry vinegar until smooth. Adjust the consistency with some of the reserved cooking liquid, until you achieve the consistency of whipped cream – the mixture will thicken as it cools. Season to taste. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve. If refrigerating, warm slightly before serving as you don’t want it to be cold. 
  3. Place the remaining 200 ml oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the sliced onions until light golden, then add the capers and cook until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Reserve the oil and cool.
  4. Spoon the fava into a serving dish. Top with the crispy onions and capers and drizzle with some of the reserved cooking oil. Serve with grilled pita.

This is an edited extract from Just George by George Calombaris, published by Hardie Grant Books ($50). Available where all good books are sold.