#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge: Recipe 22 – Falafels
This month’s recipe is falafels. Definitely not something I’d cooked before since it’s actually something I’ve never eaten before. It also involved a new technique – deep fat frying, something I’ve never done at home. The idea of trying falafels was suggested to me by some ‘cooking friends’ and it seemed an interesting experiment so I gave it a go.
All I knew about falafels before I started was that they were vegetarian and I associated them with Israeli food for some reason. I wasn’t even sure what they were made of. Turns out they are typical of the Middle East as a whole, are thought of as street food and are usually made of chickpeas (although fava beans can also be used).
The recipe seemed fairly straightforward – bung the chickpeas, onion, garlic, herbs and some lemon zest in a food processor and pulse it until chopped, then pop it into a bowl, add the spices, flour, baking powder and water, bring it together as a dough, rest it then form it into balls and deep fry it. And it would have been straightforward, were it not for the fact that I have a teeny tiny food processor so I had to do all that bit of it in batches and shift through it to identify chunks of onion and chickpea that needed to go back in again. (I started to wonder in fact if it would have been easier to chop it by hand). But, no matter. Assuming you have a proper food processor you’ll be fine. It was a simple method to follow and despite using tinned chickpeas rather than soaking dried ones as the recipe suggested, I was relieved to find that my falafels did hold together.
Next up was the deep fat frying. I was a bit nervous about this; too many dire fire safety adverts about chip pan fires scaring me when I was a child! I’ve made a conscious decision not to own a deep fat fryer on the grounds that if I don’t own one I can’t deep fry food (reasoning this is better for me and it’s just easier not to be tempted). However, falafels are meant to be deep fried. So, I gingerly filled a saucepan with sunflower oil, and popped a few cubes of bread in it to see when it was hot enough (since I also don’t own a cooking thermometer) and watched it like a hawk, petrified it was going to go up in flames at any moment. It didn’t of course and once it was turning out lovely golden brown cubes of fried bread I plucked up the courage to add in some of the falafel balls. Success! They bubbled away like little tiny volcanoes and browned off nicely.
I served them with pita breads (sadly not homemade), roasted vegetables and a homemade ‘tzatziki’ with soured cream, cucumber and dill. Just warm, with a gorgeous crispy outside and soft inside, they were lovely. But, they did need the dip – without it they would have been quite dry. They were also less pleasant once they’d gone cold so these are definitely a cook them as you eat them dish.
The coriander was a very prominent flavour in these which gave them a lovely fresh taste. The spicing was very subtle, even for my tastes (and I don’t like very spicy food!), so if I made them again I would probably increase the quantities of cumin and ground coriander. I also replaced the cayenne pepper with paprika as I really don’t do hot. The main thing I didn’t like about them was the faff of deep frying them; the smell permeating the house for days afterwards, having to dispose of the oil. I tried oven baking some, but it just dried them out and didn’t give the scrummy contrasting texture as they lacked the crisp exterior. However, I have frozen half the mix so I can have another go another day and it has been suggested to me to either shallow fry them or to brush them with oil and then oven bake them. The key thing is cooking them for long enough to ensure the chickpeas in the centre are cooked through.
So, scores for this recipe are:
Ease of prep – 7/10 (very easy method to follow but these cannot be cooked in advance as they have to be eaten just as they’re ready. They would be really easy to do if you had a deep fat fryer though. And a proper food processor.)
Flavour/taste – 8/10 (tasty and enjoyable, but they do need the accompaniments, also the recipe was a bit light on the spicing even for my fairly pathetic tastes)
Healthiness – 6/10 (nothing to complain about with the ingredients, in fact quite healthy, but deep frying them isn’t brilliant. I don’t think they’d be the same otherwise though)
If you’d like to give it a go here’s the recipe I used: