Chickpeas, aka Ceci or Garbanzo beans, are one of the earliest foods of the human diet. Falafel, its most popular preparation is vastly popular all over the
Middle East. Besides being a wonderful meat replacement for vegetarians, falafel is just plain good groceries no matter how you use it; either as a delicious sandwich in pita bread or as a wonderful meatball substitute with tomato sauce.
Traditionally, falafel is made from ground-up, soaked, dry chickpeas. Falafel vendors selling this street food are ubiquitous in Egypt and Israel and plenty of other places nowadays. Even McDonalds, the hamburger chain, sells falafel in many places, where they are called “McFalafel”.
After cooking, the tasty falafel is put into pita bread with a cooling creamy sauce, or a tahini sauce. It is one very delicious sandwich.
Two things to ensure ease of preparation are:
- Be sure to soak the dried beans, covered with plenty of water, for 20-24 hours.
- Prior to shaping and cooking, thoroughly chill the falafel mixture for at least one hour.
Here is a traditional recipe I adapted from Tyler Florence.
FALAFEL serves 8
2 cups (500ml) dried chickpeas, picked through and rinsed
1 (5ml) teaspoon baking powder
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon (15ml) powdered cumin
½ tablespoon (7ml) powdered coriander
¼ teaspoon (1ml) red pepper flakes or to taste
½ cup (125ml) of fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup (60ml) of fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
8 warm pita breads cut in half.
Tahini sauce or a cucumber tzatziki sauce is real tasty
Shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, chopped cucumbers
Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and add cool water to cover by 2 inches. Soak the beans in the refrigerator for between 20 to 24 hours. This soaking is important. Rinse and drain thoroughly.
Put the soaked chickpeas in a food processor and pulse to coarsely grind, with no whole chickpeas remaining.
Add the baking powder, onion, garlic, spices, and herbs; process until the mixture is pureed; scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and be sure to refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Pour 3-4 inches of oil in a deep fryer or deep heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees F (190C). If using the pot, a thermometer is very useful.
Roll all the falafel mixture into balls 1 ½ inches in diameter. Carefully slip a few at a time into the hot oil, making sure they don't stick to the bottom. Fry until the fritters are a crusty dark brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Remove the falafels and drain on a rack or platter lined with paper towels.
Open the pita bread halves carefully to make pockets and put 4 fried falafels into each. Drizzle with the sauce and layer with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Serve immediately.
2 cups (500ml) thick Greek-style yoghurt
2 cloves crushed garlic
½ (2ml) teaspoon salt
¼ (1ml) teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ (60ml) cup chopped fresh mint leaves or one tablespoon (15ml) dried
1 large cucumber - peeled, seeded and shredded
Combine all in a food processor and blend thoroughly. Let chill 30 minutes. If you choose to use this, prepare it just before you make the falafel.
Falafel is a very tasty food, and goes great in a pita pocket. Try it, you’ll like it.