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In honour of Mirjam. This soup is called Fakess (pronounced 'fahKESS') in Greek. It is very good. This belongs to that category of Greek cooking called 'Ladera' which, literally translated, means 'made of oil'. Olive oil is not just a fat, it is a key ingredient and flavour booster and is totally necessary. When my oldest son was turning 4 and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, this is what he ordered. I've given directions for both conventional cooking and crockpot - which I tried today. The pearl barley is not traditional, but we really like it. I think it's the aftermath of a Campbell's Beef with Vegetables and Barley fixation I had in the a long time ago.
- 1 lb small dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 1⁄2 cup bulgur wheat (optional) or 1⁄2 cup pearl barley (optional)
- 2 large onions, minced
- 5 garlic cloves, quartered
- 4 medium carrots, grated fine
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 large bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt, to taste (or you can use 3 beef stock cubes with 1/2 tsp salt for this amount)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 1⁄2 quarts boiling water
- 3⁄4 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- In a large pot, cover lentils with boiling water and allow to boil for 10 minutes.
- Drain lentils of this ‘first boiling’ (greeks think that this process makes the lentils easier to digest – I prefer it).
- Put lentils back into pot.
- Add bulgar or barley (if using), onions, garlic, carrots, tomato paste, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
- Pour 2 ½ quarts of boiling water over lentils, bring to a boil.
- When mixture boils, decrease temperature to leave the lentils cooking at a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 ½ hours.
- Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and simmer ½ an hour longer.
- If the lentils are still too firm to the bite, allow to cook until they are tender and soup has thickened (soup will continue to thicken as it cools).
- If the soup is too thick, you can thin with a little hot water.
- Traditionally, we eat this soup with lots of Kalamata olives, feta cheese and crusty bread.
- I serve half the soup on one day and freeze the other half (it freezes beautifully) to serve on another day when I’m too busy to cook.
- Crockpot Version: Put all the ingredients except for olive oil and balsamic vinegar into your crockpot.
- Cook on low for 7 hours.
- Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and cook a further 2 hours.
- Ev's notes: You can enrich this already delicious soup by making a couple of variations. Add 1/2 lb of minced bacon, but cut back the olive oil to a couple of tablespoonfuls; or add 1 lb of sliced sausage, like Kielbasa. Again, cut back on the oil.
- New note: (added Dec. 27, 2004) I have taken to adding 1/2 cup bulgur wheat to this soup when I add all the other ingredients; it makes the soup more nutritionally complete if totally vegetarian, and really good and hearty; I strongly urge you try this version.
- Freezer Note: This makes quite a lot of soup - definitely enough for 2 meals (plus a little extra for the super-hungry) for my family of 5. I have taken to freezing half the batch to provide me with a quick, nutritious dinner further on down the line when time is short and you don't want to resort to ordering inches Just defrost in microwave, reheat well and serve.