I COME FROM A LARGE, NOISY FAMILY in which lovingly prepared food is considered the equivalent of a hug.

When we were growing up, my mother had an open-door policy at mealtimes – our neighbours, friends, and friends of friends knew they were welcome to stop by and break bread with us. As numbers grew, the main meal was often augmented by quickly prepared dishes whisked up from store cupboard treasures, mixed with whatever could be found in the fridge. And they were always delicious. She gifted us with the understanding that food is for sharing, a warm and welcoming home is everything and meals provide more than mere sustenance – they’re about love, friendship and kindness, too.

My mother was mistress of her kitchen and could conjure up vibrant, nourishing dishes seemingly out of nothing. It’s from her that I get my great love of, and respect for, ingredients. One of the most nutritious – and most over-looked, in my opinion – is the not-so-humble split-pea. Now, it’s true, a split-pea is not particularly sexy. It looks rather drab and unappealing in its dry form and, even when cooked, it can’t be described as beautiful, yet it is fantastically versatile. It takes a bow in many global cuisines – in Indian dhals and hearty Swedish soups.

A much favoured and tasty sharing dish is Fava (not to be confused with fava beans). Greek in origin, from the island of Santorini, this yellow split-pea-based puree is delicious, very more-ish and a great crowd-pleaser, especially when served with some warm homemade flatbread, a platter of chilli- and olive oil-infused feta and a simple lemon-and-basil-dressed tomato salad. Open a bottle of merlot and we’re away. Now, onto the music.


FAVA (yellow split-pea puree)


250g dried yellow split-peas
500ml water
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp oregano
Smoked paprika to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges


1. In a pan, cover the split-peas and onion (yes, the onion, too) with water and cook over a medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the peas fall apart. Add more liquid if needed.
2. In a separate bowl, add the split-pea–onion mixture to all the other ingredients.
3. Blitz with a handstick until the Fava is smooth. Season to taste.
4. Dress with a good splash of olive oil, paprika and lemon.


Lovely with flatbreads made with a moist dough of 200g flour (I prefer spelt or buckwheat), c. 100–150ml of tepid water, 2 tbsp of olive oil, herbs of choice, salt to taste, left at room temperature under a damp cloth for c. 30 minutes. Break off a ball of dough, roughly the size of a snooker ball, hand stretch, before baking for 10 minutes each side on a hot tray in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius. The dough can be kept in the fridge for two to three days and used as and when needed.


Music to break bread to: Elliott Smith, XO; Curtis Mayfield, Super Fly


Credit: Fava with dried split-peas on Shaftesbury olive wood board © The Literary Shed 2018.


Also of interest:Eat, drink and make merry – tasting summer‘; ‘The unprepossessing Hunza apricot‘; ‘A little bit of cheese, please, my dear‘; ‘Soup love – all about my mother’; ‘Cooking lesson – Master of Hammer Vincent Price makes a daring curry


A version of this recipe appears in HIP, 9 March 2017 issue.

This article/recipe is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do request permission. Thank you so much.