Homemade Falafel

This is unashamedly taken from one of the most beautiful books in my collection – Honey & Co.: Food from the Middle East, by the husband and wife team who run the (now famous) London restaurant in Warren Street.

They have various recipes for falafel, largely based on region of origin, family favourites etc. I’ve tried them all, but this is always my favourite. I urge you to buy the book (link above, apologies that it’s Amazon) and do some experimenting of your own; you won’t regret it.

One top tip I’ve taken is to never use tinned chickpeas – the mixture comes apart and it just doesn’t work. (Literally never, don’t even attempt it.)

Serve this with the winter slaw, cauliflower with a twist, the cannellini bean dip, and some runny tahini. Carbs can come in the form of some warm pittas. Delicious.

This recipe serves 4 greedy people with a few balls left over for lunches the next day.

Falafel, Yemeni-style

Ingredients

250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
½ an onion
1 clove of garlic
1 green chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
A big pinch of fresh parsley
A small handful of fresh coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground cardamom pods
½ tsp flaked salt
2 tbsp chick pea flour (or plain/all purpose flour if you don’t have it)
1 tsp baking powder

For frying

About 1.5 litres of clean sunflower oil (I keep two bottles aside specifically for falafel, then two for fish, two for doughnuts, etc)

To serve

A small bowl of tahini
A squeeze of lemon

Equipment

A food processor with a blade attachment (this is kind of a non-negotiable as you need to pulverise everything to get it to stick together)
A deep, heavy-based pan or a mini deep fat fryer
A digital thermometer, if you have one

Method

  1. Combine your spices and salt in a wee bowl
  2. Blitz the onion, garlic, chilli and fresh herbs in the food processor until finely chopped (it will smell incredible!)
  3. Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor too and pulse everything until it’s a thick mush, and more finely pulverised than you might imagine (this helps it to stay together when frying)
  4. Test it stays together by wetting your hands and squeezing together a ball of mixture the size of a walnut, and seeing if it holds. If it doesn’t, pulse again a few more times.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the flour and spices, then mix together until everything is properly combined

    Frying

  6. If you’re using a pan to fry the falafel, add the oil and switch the hob on to high to allow the oil to heat. Alternatively, switch on your deep fat fryer.
  7. Send all small children, cats and dopey dogs out of the room.
  8. Wet your hands and start bringing together walnut-sized balls of falafel mixture. Squeeze them really hard to allow the water to drip out, and lay them gently on a tray or flat plate while you wait for the oil.
  9. Once the oil reaches 170°c (or if you don’t have a thermometer, once a little cube of bread goes golden brown after about a minute in the oil), start transferring the falafel balls to the oil using a slatted spoon to gently lower each one in.
  10. (Do not drop them in from a height! The oil will splash and it’ll hurt like hell. Apart from anything, the falafel stand a greater chance of staying together if you’re gentle with them at this stage. Trust me, I’ve been there.)
  11. The falafel balls will each take about 2-3 minutes to cook until they’re a beautiful dark golden brown. You can usually fit about 4-5 balls in at a time, so once you’ve started you just cook them in batches until they’re done.
  12. To remove, use the slotted spoon to gently lift them out and lay them in a serving bowl lined with kitchen paper.
  13. Once you’ve fried them all, switch of the heat and put the pan somewhere that it can be totally left alone for at least 6 hours – it retains its heat for ages.
  14. If you need tips on cleaning your pan, post-oil, I’ll put together a post on that soon, I promise!
  15. Enjoy hot, with the tahini and a squeeze of lemon. If you’re keeping them for lunches, wait till they’re cool then transfer to an airtight Tupperware box.
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