This week, Sneha and I decided to feature falafel. I have a bit of experience cooking the dish– after hearing so much about Adam’s Morgan’s Amsterdam Falafelshop several months ago and never having tried the delicious fried chickpea concoction before, I had a go at making it (even though that seems counterintuitive). As an inexperienced falafel-er, it took Sneha’s sneaking grabs at my fried patties and raves to realize that we had a winner on our hands.
For those of you who are unaware, as I was until very recently, falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern street food. Chickpeas are ground with spices and herbs, formed into balls or patties and deep fried. Usually served in a pita, falafel is best enjoyed with sauces, vegetables, more chickpeas in the form of hummus, and a voracious appetite. They may look small, but they are deceptively filling.
Fortunately for this recipe, we happened to have the majority of ingredients on-hand. Even if you don’t, you can get them at any grocery store. Most of the non-perishable ingredients are items that can be kept in your pantry for other recipes (or more falafel!). Fun fact– when buying spices, always check the international aisles first. This is where grocery stores hide huge quantities of uber cheap spices, hoping you will never find them. Don’t worry, we did.
After reading comments about the falafel best practices, I decided that we would make our falafel into patties as opposed to balls, as they are easier to crush in the pita when the time comes to stuff. Before mashing the chickpeas, be sure to rinse them in water and drain, which will remove the ‘can slime,’ something nobody wants to read on a cooking blog. Sneha then crushed the chickpeas with a fork as I got started on chopping the onion, garlic, cilantro, and parsley. We didn’t happen to have any breadcrumbs on hand, so instead we toasted a piece of bread and pulsed it in the blender. We use blenders often. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
After we had everything (herbs, spices, crumbs, chickpeas) mise en place, Sneha mixed it all together with a spoon. We also opted to add an egg to help the patties stay together. From there, all that was left to do was make the patties. There’s no real method to this madness, imagine making patties, and then make them– that’s really the only thing you need to know. That, and they should be small enough to fit several in a pita half (we usually put 2-3 per pita half).
Again, pretty self explanatory. The one piece of advice I have is that the oil should be HOT. This helps sear the exterior of the patties so they do not fall apart when you flip them. When they turn that beautiful, golden fried food color, you know they’re ready to turn.
Once you’ve fried the falafel and laid it on paper towels to drain excess grease, you are ready to stuff. Generally, I like to microwave my pitas for 20-30 seconds before I open them up to avoid tearing the bread. Toppings are crucial. Tonight we decided to go with sliced cucumbers, red pepper hummus, spinach, and a cool yogurt sauce that I use on everything. Other times I have included sauteed peppers and onions, and diced tomatoes. If you like something, why not have it on falafel! French fries are also a popular topping. The key to fitting all of these fantastic toppings into your pita is to crush the patties against one side of the bread, creating plenty of room for stuffing.
Also, just because I know you’re interested:
The current record for the largest falafel ball, 74.75 kg (164.4 lb), was set on 28 July 2012 in Amman, Jordan.The previous record was 23.94 kg (52.8 lb), 1.17 m in circumference and 0.3 m in height, set at the Santa Clarita Valley Jewish Food and Cultural Festival (USA), at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, California, USA, on 15 May 2011. (Wikipedia)
Recipe (Adapted from Jeanie’s Falafel. Thanks, Jeanie! I love falafel!)
1 (19 oz) can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 & 1/2 tbs chopped cilantro
1 tsp chopped parsley
2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup dried bread crumbs
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
vegetable oil for frying
one part plain greek yogurt
one part mayonnaise
cumin & cayenne pepper to taste
1. Mash the rinsed chickpeas in a large bowl with a fork. Stir in the onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, cumin, turmeric, baking powder, egg, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper.
2. Shape the mixture into ~1&1/2 inch patties (should make roughly 18-24).
3. Heat the oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Carefully place the patties into the hot oil, fry until brown. Then, flip ’em like flapjacks.
4. To make the yogurt sauce, combine the yogurt and mayo in a small bowl. For two people, I usually use about one spoonful of each. Add lime juice to the mixture until the consistency is a little runny, then add the cumin and cayenne. I like the sauce with a bit of a kick.
Note– our photos reflect the halved version of this recipe, which was more than enough for the two of us. If there are more of you, or a male, you should probably make the full recipe.