Saturday, April 27, 2013

Herby lemon chickpea falafels

Falafel is a traditional Arab food, usually served in pitta bread with fresh salad, pickled vegetables and tahini-based sauces.  They can be eaten on their own as a snack or served as part of a meze, which is a mixture of different starters.  They are usually deep-fried but I prefer to brush them with olive oil and bake them in the oven.

Traditionally, falafel are made with chickpeas or fava beans.

According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks,

“The first known appearance of legume fritters (aka falafel) in the Middle East appears to be in Egypt, where they were made from dried white fava beans (ful nabed) and called tamiya/ta-amia (from the Arabic for ‘nourishment’); these fritters were a light green colour inside. Many attribute tamiya to the Copts of Egypt, who practiced one of the earliest forms of Christianity. They believed that the original state of humankind was vegetarian and, therefore, mandated numerous days of eating only vegan food, including tamiya.”

Traditionally, spices and herbs such as ground cumin, ground coriander and parsley are used in falafel but you can add all sorts of different vegetables, herbs and spices to change the flavour.  Here are some ideas:

  • Roasted red pepper and fresh basil
  • Fennel seeds, carrot and orange zest
  • Butternut squash and sumac
  • Lemon and fresh coriander

You just need to take care to achieve the right balance between the quantity of chickpeas and the quantity of fresh herbs and vegetables, otherwise the mixture will go mushy and you will not be able to form it into balls.  If your mixture is too mushy you can try reducing the quantity of vegetables used, increasing the quantity of chickpeas and/or adding some chickpea (gram) flour to help to bind it.

Please let me know how you get on if you try this recipe as I am always striving to improve how I explain things.  I'd also like to know what you think of the recipe format, so please leave your comments below.

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Serves 4


1 small white onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pinch sea salt

Saute chopped onion in olive oil with a small pinch of salt (the salt draws water out of the onion and lowers the temperature, so prevents burning) on a low flame until soft and translucent.  If the oil sizzles the temperature is too high.

1 small carrot, grated
Add the carrot to the onion and sauté gently

1 can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small handful fresh green herbs, e,g, one or more of parsley, thyme, lemon balm, marjoram, coriander

Zest of ½ lemon

1 dessertspoon sweet white miso (shiro miso).  You can just use salt and pepper if you have no miso though you will miss out on all the amazing nutrients in this fermented soy paste.

Fresh parsley or coriander to garnish
Put chickpeas, herbs, lemon zest and miso into a blender jug and add the sauted onion and carrot.

Blend until smooth.

Taste and adjust seasoning as appropriate

Shape into small balls about the size of a ping-pong ball, slightly flatten, place on a parchment-lined baking tray and brush with a little olive oil.

Bake in a medium oven (180˚C, 350˚F, gas mark 4) for 20-25 minutes or until lightly brown.

Garnish with parsley or coriander and serve as a sandwich in pitta bread with salad, on their own as a snack or as one of a selection of starters (meze).

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