Thursday, 10 December 2015

Falafels

According to many, Falafels originated in Egyptian where they're called Ta'amiya. I have tried them for the first time during my first trip to Egypt back in 2001. Well since then they've gone popular across the world.

It's important to mention that Ta'amiya requires the use of split dried fava beans only, which makes its texture different than falafels in a way that its softer. Combining both pulses wisely gives a good texture which happens to be the best of both worlds. Dried fava beans bring softness to the mix while chickpeas bring crunchiness.

While I was told to combine 50% chickpeas -50% dried fava beans in the falafel mix from everyone I know, I followed Anissa Helou's ratio of 1/3 dried chickpeas to 2/3 fava beans and I believe this offers the best of both worlds I mentioned above as far as the texture is concerned.

As for the garlic, do not be shy to use the amount required. I loved falafels the moment I tried the garlicky ones.

Herbs and spices come to enrich the taste of these wonderful vegetarian/vegan bites full of goodness.

We used to have falafels served in mini wraps as part of an extensive Middle-Eastern buffet back in the days when I worked in upscale hotels, never one left behind. They were a perfect hit during coffee breaks too.

Having lived some of the Golf countries where these bundles of pulses are common due to an important Levantine and Egyptian diaspora, I thought I had enough of them.

Since Imoved to London, I was surprised to find them everywhere, along with Hummus. So I thought I'll give them a go again for good old days' sake. Well, supermarket falafels taste horrible, so dothe usual fast-food joints here and there. Since they're not complicated to make, I just made them.

I followed Anissa Helou's main recipe for mixed falafel as well as for the usual sauce that goes with them (source: Mediterranean Street food and also Modern Mezze). Besides my friends, she's my trusted reference in anything Syrian-Lebanese.

If you are interested to read a comparison between famous English cookbook writers in the Middle-Eastern food scene, I recommend the Guardian's article about it. It's quite interesting.





Ingredients
Serves 4 (4 wraps)
Prep:  10 min -`Frying: 3-4 min by batch
  • 100g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight with 1 tsp of bi-carb
  • 200g dried split broad beans (the peeled ones), soaked in cold water overnight with 1 tsp of bi-carb
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp of Lebanese seven-spice (or ½ tsp ground black pepper and ¼ tsp each of ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A good pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • About a cup of fresh coriander, long stems removed, roughly chopped
  • About 1/2 cup of flat-leaf parsley, long stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder or 1/4 tsp bi-carb
  • About a handful of white sesame seeds
For frying
  • Sunflower or vegetable oil, to fry
Serve with Tarator sauce 
  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • Juice of 1 lemon (adjust to your liking)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Salt to taste

Preparation

Soak the chickpeas and broad beans in plenty of cold water overnight. Drain them from any excess of water. Use a clean towel to dry them completely.
Put all the beans into a food processor and process until you get coarse texture (Anissa asks for a smooth texture but I know my processor better but I also decided to follow other suggestions here). Be careful not to overload your processor.




Add the spices, salt, onions, garlic and herbs and process until you have a paste anywhere between coarse to fine (many Lebanese and Syrian cookbook writers like their paste not that fine, for more crunchiness).

I decided to roll the falafel, slightly flatten them and then place them in the fridge for a couple of hours although it's not necessary for that long but It helps keeping them together.
Pour enough oil to cover a batch of falafel in a small saucepan and heat it over a high heat.

Bring the heat to medium, roll the falafel in sesame and fry them batch by batch for 3-4 minutes

Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with Tarator (tahini sauce), pita or Arabic bread and salad.




Notes

  • I like to roll each falafel in the sauce, lay a bed of lettuce and chopped spring onions in the middle of a tortilla bread, roll then cover with foil, place the wrap between a panini grill and give it 5 minutes. Heaven..

  • I also like to fry falafels and fish them out before they're completely dark brown. I freeze them and reheat them in hot oven when needed...


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