Falafels are fritters made from chick peas mixed with spices and flour (in Egypt, they are made with fava beans). They are a traditional Middle Eastern food, usually served in a pitta bread pocket with any of the following: pickles, cucumber, tomato, onion, hummus, black olives and/or tahini sauce. They are now a commonly found street food around the world and are often sold at festivals as they are cheap and easy to make and bloody tasty! The secret to a good falafel is to use dried chick peas soaked overnight – they still have a bit of texture, whereas if you use canned chick peas, it’s like trying to fry bean pâté and they fall apart!
The Arabic word falāfil is used in many languages and has spread around the world as the general name for this food. It is thought it was first used in English in 1941. The word falafel, said to have derived from the Arabic word falāfi (فلافل), meaning pepper. It is thought that the dish originated in Egypt as a replacement for meat during Lent. Falafel has since become popular among vegetarians and vegans. In 2012 McDonald’s introduced the McFalafel into all its Israeli restaurants. It was an epic fail as people preferred to go to the traditional family-run outlets for their falafels. The falafel dish was withdrawn.
I like to serve falafels with stuffed vines leaves, a salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, black olives dressed with olive oil and oregano, hummus and vegan tzatziki.
This recipe makes around 30-40 small falafels. If you want less, just halve the quantities.
- 2 cups dry chick peas (garbanzo beans)
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- A small handful of chopped fresh parsley
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 ½ tbsp flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- Pinch of black pepper
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- Vegetable oil
Soak the chick peas overnight. They will double in size. Drain and rinse the chick peas then blend with the chopped onion, garlic, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper and cardamom. Blend together well until a rough, coarse meal forms. You want the mixture to hold together but don’t overdo it, you don’t want it turning into hummus! Transfer the mix to a bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. You can leave it overnight. Pour the oil into a wok or frying pan to a depth of at least 1 inch and heat over a medium heat. Form falafel mixture into round balls or using two spoons make them into small patty shapes. Fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides. Drain and serve warm with lots of other lovely stuff (see above).