When I was at University in the late 90s it felt like you could get Falafel pretty much everywhere you went. Though on reflection that may have been because they’re cheap. easy to make and vegan. Perfect student friendly food and an all-round winner when you’re trying to eat well whilst living on a budget. I really grew to love falafel and for me they’re now always served with a side dish of nostalgia.
For something I enjoyed so much they sure dropped of my radar quickly. I don’t know why but for many years they were very much the preserve of music festivals and Middle Eastern restaurants. Fortunately they’ve made somewhat of a comeback on many more mainstream menus lately – presumably due to the increase in veganism and people’s awareness of the impact of eating so much meat. I can include myself in that group too – from time to time at least. I’m not going to claim I would always swap out a beef or chicken burger for the veggie alternative, but there are occasions where the offer of a falafel wrap is just too much to resist!
If you’ve not had them then trust me when I say you’re missing out. Chickpeas on their own can be horrifically difficult to eat, but with the right preparation and spicing they can be great. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a bowl of houmous with some toasted bread or crunchy vegetables? In the case of falafel it’s the mixture of herbs and spices that bring the flavour and the cooking that brings the texture. In most cases a dark, crispy outside that could only come from being deep fried. I do love biting through that crunchy outside but it’s not something I can recreate at home. Mostly because we don’t have a deep-fat fryer, but also because I like to keep home-cooking a little healthier.
Therefore whilst there’s no compromise on the flavour here I have to admit the texture will be a little less crunchy. I’ve swapped the oil for a bit of cooking spray and the fryer for a hot oven. I think it’s a reasonable compromise but if you feel these would be better cooked in oil then be my guest.
I find they’re best served with toasted pitta breads and a range of side dishes – so you can mix and match the dinner you want. As you’ll see in the photo below I’ve gone for houmous, peppers, lettuce, cucumber and a quick “sort-of-Greek-Salad”, dressed with pomegrante vinaigrette. This bit really is up to you!
- 400 g Canned Chickpeas drained (approx 240g when drained)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Lemon juiced and zested
- ½ Red Onion peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic peeled
- 1 handful Fresh Coriander finely chopped
- 1 handful Fresh Parsley finely chopped
- 1½ tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 tsp Ground Coriander
- ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- Spray Oil optional
- Drain the chickpeas, put into a sieve or colander and rinse under a tap. Leave to dry for a few minutes on some kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Pat dry if needed, to remove as much surface moisture as you can.
- Pour half of the chickpeas into a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth purée, adding the olive oil and lemon juice to assist.
- Add the remaining chickpeas and other ingredients to the food processor and pulse until well mixed into a coarse paste. When you're happy you can either move straight to the next step or tip the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This extra step will make the mixture firmer and easier to shape.
- When you're ready to cook the falafel pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
- Meanwhile, use a dessert spoon to divide the mixture into bite-sized pieces. Shape into rough balls and lay out on a non-stick (or greased) oven tray. Spray with a little oil (optional) then put into the hot oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp on the outside.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.