If you ask a Greek what is the most characteristic Greek dish, they would not say moussaka or souvlaki; The dish that would most likely come to their mind is Fasolada or Fasoulada, depending on where the person comes from. This is a bean soup that we traditionally eat in the cold Winter months. It’s characteristically economical and easy to make and warm up. Fasolada Bean Soup is the most comforting dish that I remember from my childhood.
White or red soup
The word fasolada comes from the word fasoli, which means bean. Fasolada is much tastier when it is prepared a day beforehand, making it perfect for gatherings with friends because you spend less time in the kitchen. The starch of the beans thickens the soup during the slow cooking and the cooling-down time, before you enjoy the soup. You can prepare it with tomato as a red soup, or without the tomato with a few drops of lemon juice as a white soup. My daughter Dora loves soups and this one used to be one of her favourites as a child.
Roots in Ancient Greece
Beans and other pulses are very popular in Greek cuisine, especially during fasting periods like Easter. People eat more pulses as a tasty and healthy alternative to meat dishes. We always cook them in olive oil. I read the following on www.bluevillascollection.com:
“Fasolada originates in ancient Greece, as a sort of vegetarian stew of beans, vegetables and grains, and was used as a sacrifice to the Greek God Apollo at the Pyanopsia Festival
(Πυανέψια Πυανόψια ). According to the myth, the custom was born when Theseus sailed from Athens to Crete to kill the Minotaur. On the way, he stopped in Delos island (next to Mykonos), and made a sacrifice to Apollo, promising that if he managed to win the battle and kill the beast, he would offer the God olive branches decorated with fresh fruit, to thank him.
On his return, following the successful adventure in the Minoan palace labyrinth, Theseus stopped in Delos again. This time to fulfil his promise but there was a small problem as already seven days had passed since their departure and no food was left on the ship. So, Theseus’ shipmates gathered basically anything edible that was left, mostly being beans, and cooked it in a stew, and make something like what we would call today a Fasolada.”
Fasolada Bean Soup
To make sure that this is actually true, I asked my dear and good friend Evi Pini, a well-known archaeologist and writer. In the past Evi and I have cooked together at Odyssey, inspired by recipes from ancient Greek dishes. Evi said that 2500 years ago, the beans that we use today for Fasolada were not known yet, however blackeye beans and broad beans were widely available. Which means that during the Pyanopsia Festival for the God Apollo the people were probably eating a casserole dish with different pulses.
Maybe in the future Evi and I will cook more recipes from ancient Greece, hopefully even this Summer. When that happens, I hope that my dear friend and gifted photographer Annette Spaan will be around to photograph it for our “Katerina’s Kouzina”.
Enjoy the Fasolada Bean Soup!
Photos: George Gkionis
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