Anyone who is vegetarian, or has “gone vegetarian” for a while has likely had a falafel or two. And depending on what you add to the falafel, they are vegan as well as vegetarian! Falafel is the fried patty made from ground chickpeas, fava or other broad bean; the smushed beans are most often mixed with onion, garlic and spices and either deep-fried or pan-fried until they are crispy on the outside and still lovely, moist and soft on the inside.
You can get falafel at Middle Eastern restaurants all over town, it most often is served in a soft warm pita covered with tahini and or a good, garlicky tzatziki, spicy pickled beets or pickled red cabbage with maybe a little chopped tomato and cucumber and fresh herbs. And vegetarian or not, falafels are awesome and a great, healthy go-to when you want to indulge in something deep-fried but nutritious; chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans are a great source of several vitamins and minerals, protein, iron, magnesium, folate and fibre. Couple that with the goodness of the fresh veggies and other add-ons and a falafel sandwich is definitely a power packed dinner!
Many of us, especially during our student years have had a go at preparing falafel fritters at home too, using a powdered, pre-packaged falafel mix like Cedar Phonecia brand. These work really well; they are super economical and are fun and easy to prepare to boot! Just mix the ground chick pea/fava bean base with water and let stand for about half an hour to an hour (so start this before you are truly, madly hungry!) The ingredients in the store-bought mixes are usually straightforward; in addition to the ground peas, cracked wheat, wheat flour, cornmeal, spices and leavening agents like baking soda/powder are usually added.
While the dough rests you can prep your veggies and make your tzatziki et cetera. The falafel dough will be easy to work into 1-inch thick patties, and you fry them in hot oil, about 350F. Use an oil with a low smoke point , like peanut or sunflower oil and fry for 2-3 few minutes until they are golden brown and crispy. Too hot an oil and they will cook too fast on the outside and be undercooked inside. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel and there it is!
For those that don’t wish to deep-fry, you can pan-fry them too; in this case, patties (flatten the balls slightly) work better, just add enough oil so that both top and bottom get a nice, crispy exterior. Use a thin spatula to turn them.
If you have a falafel craving but don’t have the aforementioned mix at home, you can always make them from scratch. Use dried chickpeas and rehydrate them overnight; they should still be a little firm the next day, slightly crunchy. Canned chickpeas are not recommended; they are too mushy and your falafel might blow apart during frying.
Makes about 24 one-inch balls
1 ¼ cup dried chickpeas, rehydrated to give you 2 cups chickpeas.
¼ cup chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoons cumin
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
oil for frying
Soak the chickpeas overnight. They will just about double in volume and weight, giving you about 2 cups. Drain chickpeas. Put all ingredients except the oil in a food processor and pulse, scraping down mixture from the sides with a spatula occasionally until ingredients are combined and a grainy, course “dough” consistency is achieved. Do not over process; you’re not making hummus. Turn the dough out into a bowl and form 1 inch balls. Chill in refrigerator or freezer until firm. Put oil in a saucepan, deep enough for the falafel to float. Heat oil to 350 F and maintain that heat during the frying process. Gently add falafels to hot oil- do not overcrowd! – and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning falafel over halfway through. Gently remove falafel with a slotted spoon and let rest on paper towel.
Pan frying works well too. Flatten each ball a little and fry on medium high in about 2 tablespoons oil for 2 minutes each side or until nicely browned.
Stuff a warmed pita with the falafel. Top with your favourite additions like sliced sweet onions, chopped cucumber and tomato, pickled cabbage or beets and tahini or tzatziki.
1446662411_cedar falafel mix
you can opt for store-bought...
...or make it at home
ready for frying
or squash them a little and pan-fry them!