A little earlier this year, I posted a recipe for my mother in law's delicious Chickpea Soup, called Revithosoupa. After visiting my in laws this weekend, I suggested to Ma that I was keen to make another dish with chickpeas, a stew called Revithada (Ρεβυθάδα). Ma told me that her version is based on lemon and not tomato. It was very simple to make, with basically just chickpeas, onions and lemon. The lemon being the most important feature of the soup. You will notice in Greek cooking that it is very rare that lemon and tomato meet in the same dish. This rule has been born out of the fear of there being too much acidity in the one dish. It is usually always one or the other! While my mother in law's recipe for revithada sounded delicious, I had also been given a recipe for a tomato based Revithada. Oh the dilemma!! As I had run out of my stockpile of home-grown lemons and I had a basket full of fresh tomatoes, I decided to try the tomato version of this stew - stay posted for the Zakynthian / Ionian island lemon version soon!!
The tomato version of this stew comes from the Aegean islands. Principally, Sifnos and Kalymnos. In fact, Sifnos is famous for its chick pea dishes, where each "noikokyra" (housewife) would prepare the chickpeas in a large clay pot called a tsoukali (σουκάλι). Traditionally, the chickpea dish was taken to the local bakers (as households did not normally have their own oven) and slowly simmered overnight, in the remaining heat from the oven, which had baked the days bread.
Slowly baked chickpeas are divine. There is none of the waxiness that sometimes comes when they are boiled. The chickpeas in this stew are incredibly tender, making them melt in your mouth. Although I don't have a tsoukali at home, I do have a clay pot, which I use on special occasions to make kleftiko (slowly cooked lamb) and sometimes rabbit. Mr K gave this to me as a Christmas gift, the year we were married and I love to find new ways of using it. Don't worry if you don't have a special clay pot at home, you can use any type of ceramic casserole dish and you could even use a cast iron pot, or if you prefer - a slow cooker. If you are using a slow cooker, just reduce the amount of liquid you add, probably by a third.
Chickpea Stew - Revithada (Ρεβυθάδα)
500gr dry chick peas
2 red onions, sliced into rings
150gr olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into rings
1tsp dry rigani (dried Greek oregano)
1tsp of Greek tomato paste
Boiling water (about 500mls)
Soak the dry chick peas overnight in 1.5 litres of cold water. Soaking dried chickpeas rehydrates them and results in more tender chickpeas and shorter cooking time.
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 170 C.
Step 2. Strain the chick peas, rinse and set aside.
Step 3. In a heat proof casserole dish (or clay pot), drizzle the bottom of the dish with half of the oil and place a layer of onion rings. Add some of the chick peas. Repeat until you have about three layers of onions and chickpeas.
Step 4. Finishing on a chickpea layer, arrange the tomato rings over the top. Add boiling water to just cover the chickpeas (but not right up to the tomatoes).
Step 5. Drizzle the tomatoes with the remaining olive oil, season with rigani, salt and pepper, and place the dish, covered with the lid, in the oven. Cook for 3 hours.
Step 6. Adjust the salt and pepper seasoning to your taste before serving. Serve Revitháda, warm or at room temperature, placing one tomato ring for every serving; serve alongside a fresh salad, some feta cheese and rustic bread.