I made falafels for dinner this week so I will take the opportunity to sing their praises. Falafels are often a welcome sight among meat and stodge. They can usually be relied upon to provide something healthy and delicious when choices might otherwise be a pizza or chips or, even worse, a dull salad. I love the falafels served up at a café near work where I occasionally buy lunch. And many a time I have been grateful to see a falafel on offer when confronted by an avenue of food vans at festivals.
I have fond memories of eating a lot of falafel during travels in Israel – they were served in pitta bread with cold potato chips (not crisps) and pickled vegetables. There was something particularly exotic about eating them this way because the ‘traditional’ way in Melbourne is with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, hummus and garlic or tahini sauce. It also was a relief to easily find vegetarian food from street vendors.
My other memory of falafel is not quite so happy. It is of pushing chickpeas through a sieve in a share house many years ago – it seemed to take forever. It was one of those occasions when it felt like we would never eat dinner for the time it was taking to make it.
The falafel recipe I have made most frequently recently is adapted from The Vegetarian Lunchbox by Linda Haynes. It actually calls for a soy puree and lightly cooked cabbage and green capsicums. I use mashed chickpeas and grated carrot. The recipe calls for baking which is less fat but, even with oil spray, just seems to dry them out rather than resulting in the crisp fried shell I associate with falafel. Ideally the best way is to shallow fry and then to put in the oven to crisp up a little more. But some days I can’t be bothered with frying.
The recipe is not at all traditional but it is easy and tastes good. I served it with pitta bread (5 minutes in oven - top shelf to crisp up or bottom shelf to be soft) shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced red capsicum and chopped cucumber, plus a yoghurt sauce of plain yoghurt, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and finely chopped parsley. An excellent summer meal, especially when there are leftovers.
Adapted from The Vegetarian Lunchbasket
1 x 440g tin chickpeas, drained
1 carrot, grated
¼ red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Generous handful parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs (approximately)
4 tsp water (optional - as needed)
Crush chickpeas in a medium to large bowl using a fork. Mix remaining ingredients together. I find it easiest to mix with my hands. I think I could have done with a few less breadcrumbs – maybe because I used dry and the recipe actually called for fresh or maybe because I used a few less chickpeas than the recipe called for. That is why I added some water but if you get the balance right you wont need the water.
Bake in 200 C oven for 25 minutes – if you have time and energy, shallow fry first and then put in oven for 15-20 minutes. This recipe made 15 falafels. Serve hot with salad and yoghurt or tahini sauce.
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