Brown lentil soup (in Greek “fakes”) is a common vegan dish in the Cretan diet, as Cretans consume great quantities of legumes. Brown lentils are more suitable for soups as they cook slower and keep their shape in cooking. Lentil soup is quite common in the Greek cuisine too, however, there is a fundamental difference. Cretans prepare their lentil soup using fresh tomato juice, which gives it a sweeter and more earthy taste. The colour of the soup is dark reddish. The rest of Greeks, most of the time, prepare the broth using vinegar, resulting in a whiter colour and a more acute and acidic taste. In Crete “fakes” are casually eaten usually during weekdays in both winter and summer. In winter they can have a warming effect, especially when they are freshly made, while in summer they act as a refreshingly light meal.
As we really love fresh tomatoes, we provide below our favourite Cretan version of the brown lentil soup.
Lentils are gluten free legumes (as all legumes) whose health benefits are well recognized. First of all, they are low in calories and, therefore, diet friendly. Furthermore, they are full of fiber, iron, folate and protein and as such they are a great detoxicating alternative to meat. The healthiness score is a 3 out of 3 (🥑🥑🥑) as the dish is fully beneficial to the body.
The recipe below feeds approximately 5 people as a main dish. Cooking time is around 30 mins depending on the particular lentils we use, so the time score is 1 out of 3 (⌛). Note that some brown lentils cook faster than others. We find the dish really tasty and healthy and give it an overall score of 2 out of 3 (😋😋).
Brown lentils are most of the time available in all supermarkets and groceries. Therefore the ingredients score is 1 out of 3 (🔎). The ingredients are as follows:
- 500 gr brown lentils
- 1 big onion finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped
- 350 gr of fresh tomato juice (preferably) or passata
- 1 liter of water (approximately). More water to be added gradually if necessary during boiling.
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 2 teaspoons of salt (approximately)
- 3 pinches of pepper
- 1 tea cup of extra virgin olive oil (always added at the end)
Tip: Before starting the preparation make sure you remove the random little stones from the lentils that sometimes exist, especially when bought in bulk.
In terms of preparation score, the recipe receives 2 out of 3 (🍳🍳) as it requires close supervision. The timing of actions is very important when you cook lentils; especially judging when to turn off the hob! Follow the steps below:
- Add the lentils, onion, garlic and bay leaves in a relatively high pan.
- Add the water until the mixture is well covered.
- Bring the mixture into boil and wait about 15 mins. During this time keep adding boiling water (if necessary) to cover the mixture, as water evaporates.
- Add the tomato juice and stir the broth well.
- Wait approximately another 15 mins while the broth keeps boiling until lentils are cooked and turn off the hob.
- This is the most challenging step, as lentils must be well cooked but not overcooked as they completely lose their texture and taste. The sign of overcooking is splitting. So bring boiling to an end when lentils are still robust but soft (you can try before judging).
- Add the salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil and stir thoroughly.
- The soup is ready to be served.
It is important that olive oil is added the end of the cooking for two reasons: (1) it retains its full taste and (2) it retains all its nutritional value, some of which is destroyed with cooking.
Cretan lentil soup is greatly accompanied by any type of salted and/or smoked fish, such as sardines (“sardeles”), anchovies (“antsougies”), herring (“renga”) or mackerel (“skoumpri”). The acute saltiness of such fish greatly balances out the subtle sweetness of the soup.
Cretans also accompany their lentil soup with some mildly salty and spicy Cretan cheese such as “Graviera”, “Touloumotiri” or “Feta”.
For the meat lovers, the soup could be also accompanied with any type of cured meat products, such as salami or mortadella.
Last but not least, our lentil soup requires some bread to go with, preferably a healthy Cretan wholemeal bread. Follow this link (Cretan healthy bread with a breadmaker) to see our version of delicious Cretan wholemeal bread. If you prefer the traditional hand made bread version follow this link (handmade Cretan healthy bread).
Recipe last edited: 03/02/2019
© Recipe and photos by Agisilaos Papadogiannis