‘But what I have accomplished in this art of mine, no play-actor has ever accomplished at all. This art of mine was an empire of smoke, I was a sour sauce maker at the court of Agathocles of Sicily. I was the first to introduce the Royal Lentil Soup’.
(‘Demetrius’, in the play ‘Areopagile’, quoted in the ‘Deiphosophist’ 200 AD.)
Lentil soup was the ancient Greeks favourite winter soup and has been made since the Bronze Age in Egypt and India.
‘Faki’ is now considered ‘poor man’s’ soup because it is inexpensive to make and very filling, however, it is nutritious and tasty and unlike other pulses, lentils do not need overnight soaking and can be bought easily in packets and tins.
Lentil soup is traditionally eaten on Good Friday but without the luxury of the olive oil, in keeping with the spirit of the day.
I alternate with puy, red and brown lentils.
Here is my Auntie Loulla’s recipe. Loulla owns the award winning Greek restaurant Kosmos in Manchester and has shared many of her recipes on TV over the years.
225g (8oz) large brown, red or puy lentils
1.2 ltr (2 pints) vegetable, vegan stock or water
100ml (1/2 cup) virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
½ small chilli, finely chopped
1 x 500ml carton of ‘passata’
salt and black pepper
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
fresh parsley or coriander for garnish
creme fraiche/feta cheese
Wash the lentils in cold water and place in a large pan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain away the discoloured water, return the lentils to the pan and cover with the vegetable stock or water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Whilst the lentils are simmering, prepare the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots and celery until soft. Add the garlic and chilli and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Introduce all the contents of the frying pan into the pan containing the lentils. Add the ‘passata’ and the bay leaves, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, by this time the lentils should be soft.
Add the wine vinegar and seasoning and serve in large bowls garnished with chopped parsley or coriander. You can add creme fraiche or a little feta cheese on the top.