I’m travelling in the Snowy Mountains this week – yay for a Winter wonderland. But wanted to drop by and share my latest discovery. Yes we’re talking home made falafels. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to have a crack at making these wonderful Middle Eastern staples.
I still remember my best falafel and hummus experience, EVER. I was travelling in Jordan and had to spend a couple of days in the capital, Amman – not the most exciting of cities. I was a bit unhappy about having to stay there but I decided to go out walking and make the most of it. Somehow I ended up finding this little hole in the wall restaurant that was really packed – always a good sign. So I decided to give it a go. At the front of the restaurant was a man cooking with a pot that looked like a giant wok filled with oil. One after the other he was pumping out the most beautiful falafels I’d ever seen.
After snagging a table, the efficient staff brought hummus and flat bread – I love when there’s no need for ordering. Just sit tight and wait your turn. Soon a plate of the freshest falafels were plonked down and I didn’t waste any time wolfing them down. And what a revelation. Light and crisp and bursting with nutty freshness – a whole world away from the reheated falafel rolls I’d experienced in Australia.
Between the falafel joint and a little bakery I found that sold warm flat bread drizzled with olive oil and za’atar ( a spice blend of sumac, thyme and sesame seeds), I found myself reluctant to leave Amman. But travel on I did, taking with me the memory of those perfect falafels and the mental note that one day I’d make them myself.
It’s been over 10 years since that trip to Jourdan and for one reason or another, I’d almost relinquished the dream of making falafels. But something inspired me a few weeks ago. Possibly my new-found frying confidence after tackling the perfect home made potato chip. I’m not sure really. But I decided to make my own falafels and I’m excited to announce that they not only met, but exceeded expectations. And now I have a lot of lost falafel time to make up for.
It’s enough to make a dedicated omnivore think about having a fling with veganism.
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
makes about 1 1/2cups
Hummus is such a wonderfully versatile condiment. I could happily eat it for every meal. It’s lovely on it’s own with some flat bread (or Irish Soda Bread – as I discovered when I was in the Emerald Isle earlier in the year). It’s also wonderful as a sauce or a sandwich spread. It’s pairs wonderfully with lamb but it’s soul mate is well and truly fresh falafels, hot from the pan.
If you prefer to cook your own chickpeas from scratch, by all means do so. But I find I get even better results with canned chickpeas.
The secret to great hummus is to use some of the chickpea cooking (or canning) water an pureeing everything for a good few minutes to make it lovely and smooth.
If you don’t have a food processor, don’t let that stop you. Just mash everything together with a fork – the result will be a little more rustic but will still taste divine.
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tahini
Drain chickpeas, reserving the canning water. Pop chickpeas, 3 tablespoons of the canning water, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor.
Whizz for a few minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Add tahini and continue to whizz until everything is lovely and smooth.
Taste and season with salt, pepper and perhaps a little more lemon juice.
home made falafels
You can prepare the falafels ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to fry. While cooked falafels can be reheated in the oven, they’re no where near as lovely when they’re hot out of the oil.
It’s important to have your oil hot enough, otherwise the falafels will fall apart.
As I discovered myself, the texture can be really varied depending on how tightly you press the balls when forming. The tighter, the less likely they are to fall apart, but the heavier the texture. It’s worthwhile experimenting a little to find the balance between lightness and falling apart.
I think the best thing to do with falafels is serve them with pita bread, hummus and tabbouleh – like my quinoa tabbouleh I posted about recently.
1 small round pita bread (75g / 3oz), torn
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz), drained
1/2 small red onion, peeled & finely diced
1/2 small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
peanut or other oil for frying
Whizz bread in a food processor until you have chunky crumbs. Add chickpeas, onion, parsley, cumin and a little salt. Whizz again until you have a paste that is still a little chunky.
Using a tablespoon and your hands form into rounds or little logs that are about the size of a walnut in its shell.
Heat enough oil to just cover the falafels in a medium saucepan until very hot. When a piece of bread browns in 10 seconds or so, add about 1/3 the falafels and fry for a few minutes or until deep brown. Remove and drain on a wire rack. Keep warm while you repeat with the remaining batches, making sure the oil is hot enough between each.
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