I have been planning Egyptian falafels (or ta’ameya) for years, but dried fava beans, the main ingredient, were impossible to find. Finally, I bought them on a US online shop, but, when the parcel arrived I realised they were not fava beans but…. broad beans, apparently called “fava” in the USA. I was disappointed, but when I read broad beans and fava beans were close cousins, the main difference being the size, I decided to test broad beans and it was such a wonderful surprise!
I scrolled through several Egyptian falafel recipes, but haven’t followed any particular one and used my previous experience with chickpea falafels in terms of texture and frying. This plus the presence of broad beans instead of fava beans makes these falafels only Egyptian-inspired. The fabulous result was partly due to a huge amount of fresh herbs, broad beans were the main reason of the successful outcome. Compared to chickpeas, they were creamier, lighter and easier to form compact falafels. Actually, I have decided to stop making chickpea falafels, unless I cannot find dried broad beans, of course. (I am still hoping to find dried fava beans in the British English meaning of the word!)
My favourite way to eat falafels (both chickpea and broad bean) is to squash them, place on a piece of chapatti or Mexican tortilla. Then, I add sliced red onion, cucumber, fresh sweet pepper or medium hot chilli, coriander leaves, a lettuce leaf, some thick yogurt and a splash of sriracha. A crazy mixture of international ingredients, but my favourite way. If I have Indian pickled chilli, I add it instead of sriracha!
FLOUR is here to bind the ground beans, so use as much as required. Mix in the flour and try to form a falafel, 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 white wheat flour, so don’t know how the texture or taste changes if anything else is used.
HERBS: If you hate fresh coriander, just skip it and add more parsley. I think you can use other herbs if you like and know how the mix of them will taste! (Though, looking at different recipes I realised only coriander and parsley were recurrent).
If you don’t have green onions, add chives and one red onion or leek’s white part.
SHAPE: After years of making round falafels, I realised some time ago I prefer sausage-shaped ones because they’re easier to put into wraps. Feel free to choose the shape you prefer.
DEEP-FRYING: Do you remember my recent post about the air-fryer? Unfortunately, among my air-fryer experiments, falafels are the biggest failure. I tested them twice, was each time disappointed and returned to deep-frying. Luckily, after checking the amount of oil missing after straining it back into a bottle (in order to reuse it) I was happy to notice these falafels absorbed much less oil than for example tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlets), another item I used to deep-fry often. In short, I don’t see any reason to experiment falafels in my air-fryer any more!
FRIDGE/FREEZER: I have noticed they keep much better if frozen rather than kept in the fridge. Just like rice, they become tough and dry in the fridge, while in the freezer they retain their moisture.
Preparation: about 45 minutes (+8 hour bean-soaking)
Ingredients (I have obtained about 20 sausage-shaped falafels):
250 g dried broad beans
1/2 handful chopped parsley (you can include stalks too)
1/2 handful chopped fresh coriander leaves (as above, stalks are welcome) or more parsley
1 big spring onion (bulb and leaves), chopped or 1 small red onion + spring onion leaves or a small bunch of chives
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons powdered chili
2 big garlic cloves, crushed
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
a handful of white sesame seeds
(pita bread and for example tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, onion, hot sauce, mayonnaise, yogurt…)
In a food processor mix all the ingredients except for oil and sesame seeds.
Form the first falafel to check if there is enough flour to bind the mixture.
If it’s enough, form small flattened sausages or flattened balls with your hands, squeezing hard. You can always add more flour as you reach the bottom of the bowl.
Preheat the oil in a small pan (I find using a small but deep pan easier; mine can fit 3-4 falafels in the same batch). Check if it’s hot enough, throwing a pinch of falafel dough. If it goes up straight away and starts bubbling, it means the temperature is high enough (you can also use a thermometer of course!).
Place sesame seeds in a wide bowl or on a plate and dip each falafel’s two sides (you can also roll them in sesame seeds) just before frying.
Fry the falafels, trying not to overcrowd, till they are dark golden.
Shake them well while taking out of the pan and then place on paper towels to absorb oil.
Serve them in wraps or on green salads or squashed, in sandwiches.
If you make a big batch, it’s better to freeze them at once instead of keeping in the fridge where they become tough and dry.