Greek Lentil Soup

With winter on the way, I can’t help but think about delicious warm soups and Greek lentil soup, or fakes, (pronounced far-kes) is the quintessential Greek winter soup. It’s hearty, delicious, and very nutritious!

This is no ordinary soup! Eating fakes on a cold winter’s day, is like wrapping yourself with a cosy warm blanket. The ingredients in this soup give it a unique earthy flavour that is very satisfying and delicious. For me, it’s a must-have winter comfort food.

Lentils is one of the oldest food crops known and provides a range of essential nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins. Unlike other legumes, lentils don’t need to be soaked prior to cooking. So, not only does this soup taste great, it’s also super healthy.

Lentil soup 2Making this soup always takes me back to my childhood when I’d sit at the kitchen table watching my mum prepare the lentils by carefully inspecting them for any foreign bits and tiny stones. Although this is a habit I picked up from her, I have not found any foreign matter in lentils for years now, so I guess the packing process has improved over the years.

To be honest, I didn’t like fakes that much when I was a kid, but I did love the salted herring (renga) that would always accompany the soup. I can still picture my dear dad holding the herring over an open flame, which was usually just some paper he would set alight, to heat it up and remove the skin. The flame gave the fish a lovely smoky taste.

He would then open up the fish and break it into small pieces, peeling away the remaining skin and removing the bones. Although, salted herring is not a food I eat often these days because of the high salt content, I still crave it when I’m eating fakes. I’ve replaced herring with spicy Greek pickled peppers, which are also delicious with this soup.

Fakes is one recipe that will continue to be passed on for generations to come, because it’s as popular today in Greek cuisine as it was when my grandmother used to make it.

What you need

  • 1 onion – grated
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 celery stick finely chopped. Leave any leaves whole.
  • 5 medium very ripe tomatoes (or 440g tinned chopped tomatoes)
  • 300g dried brown or green lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablepoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

To serve

  • Red wine vinegar – to drizzle
  • Extra olive oil – to drizzle
  • Greek golden pickled peppers
  • Crusty sourdough breadstick

What to do

Put the lentils into a pot and add enough cold water to cover them.

Place over medium-high heat and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes. Drain the lentils and return to the same pot.

Cut the end of the tomatoes and grate the flesh into a bowl – discard the skin

Add the onion, garlic, celery, tomatoes, bay leaves and oil to pot with the lentils.

Lentil soup in potPour in the chicken (or vegetable) stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 10-20 minutes or until the lentils soften. If the soup starts to become too thick, add a little boiled water and continue cooking.

Lentil soup in pot 2

To serve, remove and discard the garlic cloves and celery leaves.Ladle the lentil soup into bowls and drizzle a little oil and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.

Serve with crusty sourdough bread and a few Greek pickled peppers. I prefer the Tragano brand of Greek peppers because of their superior quality and taste. They are available from most good delicatessens.

Lentil soup 2