As an avowed carni- and piscivore I usually feel the need of animal or seafood protein presence in order to feel I am having a full nourishing meal. Falafels are one of the rare exceptions and on the rare occasions when I am got to a kebab sandwich shop, I surprise myself with choosing the vegetarian snack rather than the meat-loaded option. For those who have never seen falafel, it is a deep-fried ball – usually slightly squashed – made with chickpeas, chickpeas and fava beans or only fava beans. Falafels are popular in Middle Eastern countries and apparently have origins in Egypt. They are so widely consumed in Israel that this year McDonald’s launched McFalafel there! Falafel can be served as a snack or appetizer but it is usually bought wrapped in thicker bread or in thin pita bread together with raw vegetables and sauce(s). I have already had falafel sandwich in Lebanese, Turkish and Egyptian shops. Every time the taste was slightly different, but rarely disappointing.
When, a couple of days ago, browsing through Baking Devils blog I saw appetising home-made falafels, I decided to give them a try. The preparation was quick (apart from the overnight soaking time), easy and the result more than satisfying. In fact, these were the best falafels I have ever had in my life! Thank you, Baking Devils, for this wonderful recipe!
If, like me, you have dried chickpeas, you should soak them overnight, but I swear, the result is worth waiting for! I have only slightly modified the below ingredients’ amounts, but the recipe stays the same. My favourite pairing for falafels in a rolled pita is a mixture of hot chili sauce, yogurt (or sour milk), chopped onion, salad, cucumber and tomato. Even though the falafel balls are usually slightly squashed, I have only squashed mine when putting them into pita. I haven’t managed to squash them before frying. The balls would fall into pieces every time I tried doing it.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the courage to make my own pita bread, but you will find a very well explained – and apparently not complicated – pita recipe on Baking Devils blog. (Jenny and Shilpa are so creative, they have even thought about a Mexican falafel version with black beans!).
TIP: The flour is here to bind the ground chickpeas, so use as much as required. Sometimes I need just one tablespoon and the balls are easily formed, but sometimes I need five tablespoons…. just mix in the flour and try to form a ball, tightly squashing with your hands. If it keeps the shape, there’s enough flour. You can also use different types of flour, though I’ve always used wheat flour, so don’t know how the texture or taste changes.
Falafels taste much much better if made with raw soaked chickpeas (not canned ones), so do make an effort and try soaking chickpeas at least once. You will never want to go back to cooked or canned chickpea falafels!
If you hate fresh coriander, just skip it. It’s equally delicious with parsley only.
Preparation: about 45 minutes
Ingredients (I have obtained about 20 apricot-sized balls):
250 g dry or 400 g canned chickpeas
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon powdered chili
1 small red onion
1 big garlic clove
1 tablespoon flour (or more, up to 5-6 tablespoons, see the TIP above)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 flat teaspoon salt
oil for deep-frying
(pita bread and for example tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, onion, hot sauce, mayonnaise, yogurt…)
If you have dry chickpeas start by soaking them overnight in cold water with a pinch of baking soda.
If you have canned chickpeas you can start the preparation straight away.
Put all the ingredients (apart from oil of course) in a food processor and mix them very well to a coarse, but homogeneous paste.
Heat the oil (test if it’s hot enough by throwing a pinch of your chickpea paste, if it doesn’t stay at the bottom, but goes up at once and starts bubbling, it means the temperature is high enough for frying).
Form small balls with your hands (mine were apricot-sized) or “sausages” or any shape you like, squeezing out the liquid very hard. There will be more and more liquid as you approach the bottom of the bowl where you have put your paste, so I advise transferring it into a sieve so that the liquid flows out a bit (you can also add more flour as you go, but don’t exaggerate, it shouldn’t overwhelm the mixture).
Fry them, trying not to overcrowd the pan, until golden-brown.
Serve wrapped together with raw vegetables and sauces wrapped in pita bread or serve them as a snack/appetizer.