Falafel

Falafel

Who does not love a falafel? These fried chickpea fritters are served along with houmous, salad and pitta bread.

I first ate a falafel in Brussels in 2003. We had gone to Brussels for our first wedding anniversary. It was cold and wet, and we could not find many vegetarian places to eat. We came across a small stall opposite the main train station selling freshly fried falafel piled in a warm pitta with oodles of salad.

The falafels were crispy on the outside and hot and fluffy inside with a fresh taste of parsley and garlic. Oh! The salad to go with it was to die for. They had soo many varieties of salad and you could pick and choose whatever you want to fill in your pitta. They had a spicy onion (I know it is not traditional) but it went really well with the falafel. Since, then it has been one of my favorite dishes. I happened to eat it again when we went to Cairo and I knew I was in love.

My favourite way to make a falafel pita is to start with a layer of houmous deep inside the pocket, then add the falafel, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Be creative with it!

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpea
1 roughly chopped onion
30 gram chopped fresh parsley
30 gram chopped fresh coriander leaves
15 gram fresh mint leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
oil for frying

Directions

Step-1

Wash the chickpeas and soak them in 3-4 cups of water overnight. They will double in size as they soak.

Step-2

Dry roast cumin and coriander seeds on low heat until slightly brown and finely crush them in a pestle and mortar.

Step-3

Drain the soaked chickpeas and pour them into a food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic, parsley, mint, and coriander.  Pulse all ingredients together until the mixture is a texture of couscous.

Empty it in a bowl and add the cumin, coriander powder, cayenne pepper and mix well. Refrigerate it for 1-2 hours.

Step-4

After 1-2 hours, add salt and bicarbonate of soda to the mixture and mix it all together.

Heat oil for frying on medium heat. To check if oil is ready for frying, add a little bit of the falafel mixture to the hot oil. If it sizzles at once, that means the oil is ready for frying.

Form falafel mixture into round balls using wet hands or a falafel scoop. I usually use about 3 teaspoons of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference. Fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides.  It usually takes me 5-6 minutes to fry each batch

Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon and let them drain on absorbent paper.

Serve the falafels fresh and hot.

Tips & Variations

  1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight. Do not use canned chickpeas as they are too tender and contain too much moisture to achieve the right consistency of a falafel.
  2. If you cannot soak chickpeas overnight, then soak them for at least 6-8 hours.
    Do not cook the chickpeas because this will result in a mushier and denser falafel.
  3. Try to buy a fresh packet of chickpeas as if the chickpeas are too old, then it might lead to hard falafels.
  4. You can also use half chickpeas and half fava beans to give it a different texture. Soak the fava beans overnight same as chickpeas.
  5. You can be creative with the herbs and add more parsley if you wish. Sometimes, I add a little bit of dill to give a different taste to the falafel.
  6. Always use fresh herbs while making falafel. Dried herbs will not give the same flavour as fresh herbs.
  7. I always use the ‘pulse’ button on my food processor while making the mixture as I feel I am more in control of how much I need to grind. If you grind too much, then the mixture turns into a paste and the falafel will be denser. You want the mixture to hold together and be damp and slightly mushy.
  8. If your falafel is too hard or too crunchy on the outside that means that the mixture was not processed enough in the food processor.
  9. While shaping the falafel use gentle hands as if you press it too hard the falafel will become denser.
  10. Wet hands help in shaping the falafel. I always keep a bowl of water ready when I fry falafel as it is easy to wet hands.
  11. Fry them fresh before serving. They need to be eaten freshly fried.
  12. Sesame seeds falafel- After forming the balls, dip them in sesame seeds prior to frying. This will make the falafel coating crunchier and give it a slightly nutty flavor.
  13. Bicarbonate helps to lighten up the texture inside of the falafel balls and hence making them fluffy. It is added just before frying.
  14. If the balls do not hold together, place the mixture back in the processor again and continue processing to make it mushier. Keep in mind that the balls will be delicate at first; if you can get them into the hot oil, they will bind together and stick. If they still do not hold together, you can try adding 2-3 tablespoons of flour or chickpea flour to the mixture.
  15. Before frying my first batch of falafel, I always fry a test one. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown (5-6 minutes total). If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot, and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Cool the oil down slightly and try again.

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