Falafel can easily be bought from the supermarket and you seem to be able to buy them in an increasing array of flavours from sweet potato to beetroot. Interesting as they may be, nothing beat the taste of freshly cooked hand-made falafel.
Legend says that falafel originated from Egypt about 1000 AD where Coptic Christians used them as a substitute for meat during lent. They are universally popular across the Middle East. In Egypt they are made from Fava (Broad beans), in Israel they are made from chickpeas but you can make them with either or a mixture of both.
You can cook the falafel for part of a mezze or as I’ve done here to be served with flat breads, hummus, salad and a spicy hot sauce.
Preparation time: Overnight soaking for chickpeas
Cooking time: 1 hour
- 100g dried chickpeas
- 200g broad beans
- 100g spring onion
- 15g parsley
- 15g coriander
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- Seeds from 3 cardamom pods
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp Gram or wheat flour
- Olive or rapeseed oil for deep frying
Pomegranate pickled onions
- 1 red onion
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp wine vinegar
- 30g coriander
- 15g parsley
- 2 green chillies
- 1 tsp Lebanese 7 spice or 1/4 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
- Salad such as lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots
- 4 flatbread such as pita bread or Khobez
The night before you want to make this, soak the chickpeas in a large bowl, covered with at least double their weight of water. Overnight they will swell up to double their volume. If you are making your own hummus you will need to put additional chickpeas to soak as well. If making your own hummus you will need to cook the chickpeas before making your falafel.
The next day, drain the chickpeas and place to one side. Put the herbs for the falafel in to a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil and pulse in to a paste, how chunky you want the paste is up to you. You will need to form this mixture in to balls later, if it is a little moist add some more gram flour, if a little dry add some water. Test for seasoning and add a little more salt if needed. Refrigerate for 1/2-1 hour.
Whilst the falafel mixture is refrigerating, prepare the garnishes.
Pomegranet pickled onion
Finely slice the red onion and mix with the pomegranate molasses and vinegar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make the chilli paste by putting all the ingredients in a small food processor bowl and pulse until smooth. You may need to add a little water to help it blitz down.
If making your own hummus, blend it now and refrigerate.
45 minutes before you want to eat put the oven on to 110 degrees and in a heavy bottomed sauce pan pour sufficient olive or rapeseed so that you have about an 3 cm of oil. Put on a medium/high heat until it comes to about 180 degrees or if you are using a deep fat fryer bring that to 180 degrees.
Remove the falafel paste from the refrigerator and take heaped 1 tbsp size amounts (about 30 g) shaping and squeezing them firmly in to balls in the palm of your hand.
Deep fry the falafel in batches for about 1.5 minutes, turn with a metal spoon and fry for another 1.5 minutes on the other side. If using a deep fat fryer you will probably not have to turn them, just make sure the falafel are browning evenly. The falafel should puff up slightly and be crispy on the outside but dry on the inside. Remove from the oil and keep warm in the oven until you have finished all of the falafel.
Lightly toast the flat breads
Serve with the flat bread, hummus, chilli paste, onions and salad.