Falafel, Hels Yeah!

This post is brought to you by one of my fabulous (and equally greedy) sisters. Thanks Hels!

And if, as you say below, this meal can indeed transport me to a time I looked good in short denim cut-offs – (I was not blessed with my sister’s long legs OR her tannable skin…think translucent potatoes…’skin like porcelain’ Mum says, but whatever, I have mirrors) – then Hels yeah, I’m in!

Faff Factor: 4/5 * Flavour 5/5 * Fridge to Face: 40 mins

Recipes adapted from Jerusalem (Ottolenghi / Tamimi)

‘Covid 19 & mostly, making the best of things’ by Helen Etchells

“While many things we take for granted have stopped for now, eating well and coming together to share something delicious have become even more important than usual (for a greedy person like me = pretty damn important). I don’t have hobbies but I do love food, both cooking and eating it. Finding joy in the small things is a welcome diversion when there’s so much crap and uncertainty around.

Having heard from Plantish (my wee sister) what a hit the falafel from Jerusalem are, I finally got my sh1t together to make them.  It being lockdown, I had to use what was in the cupboards so I subbed the dried chickpeas for tinned. I think mine were probably a bit wetter than St Otto of Lenghi’s but, I have to say, they were absolutely delicious and disappeared like snow off a dyke*.

Twenty five billionty years ago, when I could still rock cut off denim shorts,  I spent a long, hot summer on a kibbutz in the north of Israel. Before returning home to real life, I had a week in Tel Aviv, roasting on the beach and living on falafel and beer.  My denim cut off days may be behind me, but these falafel, in cumin scented wraps and drenched in creamy, garlicky tahini, transported me from my locked down Scottish kitchen to days of sunshine, Israeli street food and tanned thighs.  Not bad for a humble chickpea.”

*Scottish, for “really bloody quickly” 

(Serves 4, no leftovers)

Pitta, sangak bread or even tortilla wraps

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas (if making day of, use 2 x cans of chickpeas, drained & rinsed)
1/2 medium onion
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup parsley (Italian or flat leaf)
1/3 cup cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground corriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamon (optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
1/3 cup grape-seed oil for frying (or vegetable oil)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds for sprinkling
Salt flakes

Chopped Salad
1/2 long English cucumber
2 large tomatoes (or 1 cup cherry tomatoes)
1 small red pepper
1 small green pepper
1 baby gem lettuce (or any salad greens / spinach etc)
1 bunch parsley
1/2 med red onion
1 lemon (zest & juice of 1/2, save other 1/2 for tahini dressing)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Tahini Dressing
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx)
1/2 garlic clove
Salt & Pepper

– Sub / add in shredded purple cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, arugula, baby spinach, romaine etc to chopped salad

Day 1
1. Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water, at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight. Disregard this stage if using canned.

Day 2
2. First, the falafel mixture. Roughly chop the onion and pulse with the garlic, parsley and cilantro in a food processor. Drain the soaking chickpeas (canned if using), add to the food processor (yes, raw) and continue to pulse until chopped and combined but not mushy. Tip into a decent sized bowl and add the cumin, coriander, cardamon, baking powder and flour, with 2-3 tbsp of water.  Mix well (hands), then cover and place in the fridge while you do the rest of the prep.
3. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
4. Now the chopped salad. Chop the cucumber, tomatoes & peppers into approx 1cm chunks. Tear the baby gem lettuce into pieces. Finely chop the parsley and red onion. Mix everything together in a bowl with the zest of the lemon. Sparingly squeeze over some juice of the lemon (approx 2 tbsp), a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  It should be fresh and punchy, not swimming in dressing. 
5. Time to fry falafel. Heat a decent splash of oil in a large pan, over a med/high heat. (Not aiming to deep or even shallow fry here, just enough oil to get a crispy coating on each side) Test the oil is hot by dropping a little falafel mixture into the pan, if it sizzles immediately, you’re good to go. Scoop a generous tablespoon of falafel mix and place gently into the hot pan. Repeat until you have a batch frying, don’t overcrowd the pan. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the uncooked tops of the falafel. Fry until golden brown on the bottom, then flip using tongs and fry until other side is golden brown. About 3 mins each side. Place onto an oven tray. Repeat, working in batches, until all the falafels are done. Place falafels on tray into hot oven for 8-10 mins while you make the tahini dressing.
6. Quickly rinse out your food processor under running water and wipe with a piece of paper towel / kitchen paper. Blitz the garlic until finely chopped. Throw in the tahini, water and lemon juice and blitz until mixed and smooth. Add a little water if necessary and blitz again, you want the consistency of runny honey. Add salt & pepper to taste.
7. Turn your oven off, remove the tray of falafel and throw in your pita / sangak bread / wraps to heat for 1-2 mins.
8. For the full street food experience, load a pita with chopped salad, falafel and drench in tahini sauce. Apply, messily, to face.  Wash down with a cold beer and distant memories of your youth. 

– Hot sauce, pickled cabbage, hot peppers, sweet mango chutney, lime pickle all worthy additions to final wrap.
– Like to live dangerously? Mix things up? Aren’t afraid of the falafel police? Consider giving these sweet potato falafel from Power Plates a try.
– Embracing a lockdown or a slow-Sunday-podcast-on-glass-of-wine-in-hand cooking mission? Want to zhuzh up the final result to proper fancy status? Helen also made these Cilantro & Cumin flatbreads from the Waitrose Magazine to create her wraps. Added about 30 minutes to the overall prep / cooking time.

Faff Notes:
– Yep, no denying it, a bit of a faff. However, i’d argue well worth it. I typically make double the falafel mixture and freeze half (raw) for a super quick midweek meal, or fry them all, and keep pre-cooked in the fridge to grab for mid-week snacks & lunches. They do well heated up with a quick blast in the microwave.
– Another great meal for people to pick and choose more or less of the bits they prefer. My wee one loves the individual components, just not all mixed together, so I make her a little plate with chopped salad ingredients as I chop.
– Start this recipe with an empty sink, an empty dishwasher, a clean chopping board, and all veggies washed. As you blaze through the bowls, spoons, dishes etc you can just lob them into the sink and deal with them later, after you’ve filled your face-hole with some top notch grub and you’re in a blissed out post falafel haze…

Flavour Notes:
– If you think of it the day before, this recipe really benefits from using raw, dried chickpeas that have been soaked overnight. It gives more of a gritty texture when pulsed in the blender. Canned do just fine. (But don’t use canned, use raw!)


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