Falafels anyone?

Homemade falafels are delicious and worth making. After experimenting with various falafel recipes, I came up with this version, which is now a favourite in my family.

This recipe is made with natural ingredients and it satisfies both vegan and non-vegan palates. Among the ingredients is a grated carrot. I find that the sweetness of the carrot blends nicely with the savoury garlic and warm-peppery spices and fresh herbs. After frying, the inner part of the falafel is soft and the sesame seeds give it that extra outer crunch.

To be frank, I’m not a fan of deep-fried foods, but when it comes to making a good falafel, frying is the only option. There is no other way. And, if you use a heart-healthy oil for frying, as in this recipe, then you end up with a nutritious food that is high in protein and relatively low in fat and cholesterol. Also, if you eat falafels with a salad or fresh vegetables, then what you’re eating is basically health food.

For a complete meal, I like to serve falafels with tabbouleh – a traditional Lebanese salad that my husband John, who is half Lebanese by descent, grew up with.

Here are the recipes for falafels and tabbouleh. Have fun making them and…bon appétit!

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Falafels and tabbouleh that I made today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falafels

Makes about 35 tablespoon-size balls.

Ingredients

  • 300 grams dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – do not use canned chickpeas
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 5 green spring onions (shallots), finely sliced
  • 3 to 5 pressed garlic buds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • A pinch of ground cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • One large bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped fine
  • One small bunch of fresh flat parsley leaves, chopped fine
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon flour
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • Vegetable or canola (huile de colza) or sunflower seed oil for frying
  • A plate of sesame seeds; about ½ cup for coating the balls

Procedure

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in a bowl with plenty of cold water.

Drain and spread the peas on a clean tea towel to dry.

Put them in the food processor and process. The beans should be mixed to a paste, but still lumpy looking.

In a medium size frying pan, add one tablespoon of oil and heat the oil. Fry on medium-low heat (mixing often) the grated carrot, onions, pressed garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, cardamon and ginger for about 2 minutes – until carrots and onions are soft and the spices are fragrant.

Incorporate the onion and carrot mixture with the beans in the food processor and process until blended. At times, you may need to stop the processor to stir the mixture and scrape the sides and process again. Make sure that the mixture is evenly processed.

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Falafel mixture

Add the fresh coriander and parsley leaves, cayenne pepper, flour, salt and pepper and keep processing. The mixture should look like the texture of couscous and a paste (see image). It should have the consistency of a lumpy paste that will allow you to form balls. Don’t overprocess it – you don’t want it turning into hummus!

When you get the desired consistency, pour the mixture in a bowl and cover it. Chill in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Fill a small deep skillet with oil – about a depth of 3-4 cm; or just enough oil to fry the botton half of the falafel balls. They shouldn’t submerge in oil since you will be flipping them and frying them one side at a time.

From the mixture, form flattish balls using a tablespoon or a falafel scoop. Then gently roll and cover the balls in the sesame seeds. At first, when forming balls, the balls will stick loosely together and they will be delicate and not easy to handle. Don’t panic. Use the tablespoon or scoop or wet your hands with cold water to shape them as much as possible. Also, rolling them in the sesame seeds helps them bind. If they really don’t stick, add a few tablespoons of flour to the mixture or if your guests are not vegan, add 1-2 eggs to the mixture. Then, go back to making the balls.

When the oil is ready for frying, do a small test with one falafel to check the temperature. The temperature of the oil should allow the centre of the ball to cook fully and the outer layer to turn golden brown. If things are not right after the first test, readjust the heat of the oil and start again.

Once shaped, spoon them gently into the frying oil and you’ll see how the balls will quickly bind and stick together.

Fry the balls in batches of 5 or 6 at a time. Fry them for 2-3 minutes on one side, then flip them on the other side and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

When golden brown on both sides, remove the balls with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel. Do the next batch.

Serve warm or cold.

Tabbouleh

Makes enough for eight to ten people

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 cups fresh flat parsley leaves
  • 1 cup of fresh mint leaves
  • 5 to 7 green onions (shallots)
  • 8 to 10 medium size ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cups dry bulgar wheat (use less if you want less wheat)
  • Lots of fresh lemon juice extracted from 3 or 4 lemons
  • Extra virgin olive oil – one bottle on stand-by
  • Sea salt and ground pepper

Procedure

Put the dry bulgar wheat in a medium size bowl and soak in cold water for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, continue with the recipe while the wheat is soaking.

Drain the wheat after 20 minutes and squeeze by hand all excess water from the wheat. Put in a bowl and set aside.

Wash and pat dry the parsley and mint leaves. Put both parsley and mint leaves in the food processor and process until the leaves are finely chopped. This should not turn to liquid. Put the chopped leaves in a large salad bowl.

Finely chop the onions and tomatoes by hand and add these to the parsley and mint leaves. Add the bulgar wheat. Mix well.

For the lemon and olive oil, this part depends on how you like your salad and how big your salad is. Drizzle a little olive oil and alternate with drizzling a little fresh lemon juice. Keep drizzling these two ingredients in the salad and keep tasting the salad until you feel there’s enough oil or lemon. You want to blend both lemon and olive oil flavours in the salad, but these liquids shouldn’t weigh the salad down. The salad should be moist but not wet. If you want the salad to taste more lemony, then add more lemon juice. If you want it to taste more oily, then add more oil. Note that the olive oil and lemon will help soften the bulgar wheat, which may still be a little hard.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Let the salad marinate for a few hours. Adjust salt, pepper, lemon and oil before serving.

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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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