I need to confess, I discovered falafels just 3 years ago, after I moved to London. Until then I wasn’t excited about this dish and thought that the combination of flavours was a little bit odd for my liking. I was so wrong! The first time I tried falafel in one of London’s bars, I was surprised by the amazing punch of flavours! This was not what I’d excepted! Fluffy little balls, together with the sweetness of pomegranate seeds and a slightly salty yogurt dip – they were like a lovely song for my gut. This experience helped me to discover Middle Eastern cuisine and incorporate those flavours into my everyday cooking.
If you would like to incorporate aromatic Middle Eastern flavours into your weekly menu, falafels could be an amazing choice. It is very easy to adapt this recipe for your taste. You can change the spices and discover new combinations. Also, you have a long list of choices for your sides – pitta bread, hummus, tzatziki, fresh veggies, coriander, parsley, pomegranate – almost anything you can think of. Lastly, chickpeas are very nutritious and full of minerals and vitamins. So, by serving falafels with different vegetables, you can prepare a balanced dinner in less than 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, I have to admit, for traditional falafels you need to use dry chickpeas, which need to be soaked in a bowl of water for at least 18-24 hours. Also, falafels are deep fried. I’ve changed these two aspects and am using tinned chickpeas and baking them in the oven. This way, I reduce cooking time and lower the amount of fat in my dish.
A few more things about falafels:
- If you use dry chickpeas, soak them in a bowl of water for 18-24 hours with half a tablespoon of baking soda. This way, the chickpeas will get softer.
- After you prepare your mixture, let it sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours. This will help to intensify the flavours and make it easier to shape the balls.
- You can add fried onion into the mixture.
- Falafel mixture can be frozen. So, you can easily double the amount and freeze half for your next dinner.
- Coating with ground almonds will give an amazing golden colour and nutty fragrance.
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tablespoon of tahini
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
80g ground almonds
2-4 tomatoes (depends on the size)
Basil (or parsley)
2 tablespoons of Greek or natural yoghurt
½ clove of garlic
¼ cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Drain the chickpeas and put them in a food processor, together with the tahini and breadcrumbs. Add the zest and juice of one lemon, parsley and season with salt and pepper.
- Lightly fry the garlic in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. Add smoked paprika, cayenne and cumin. Fry them together for a minute or so, until the spices release their fragrance. Add this mixture to your chickpeas.
- Blend everything together until the paste is thick (you may need a bit more breadcrumbs – depending how moist your chickpeas are).
- Form the mixture into balls and coat them with the ground almonds.
- Bake them in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they get amazing golden colour (every 5 minutes flip the balls, to make sure that they bake evenly).
- Prepare your salad: cut the tomatoes into medium sized cubes, add the pomegranate seeds, basil, lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with some olive oil.
- Yogurt sauce: add your crushed garlic, cayenne, lemon juice, salt and pepper into the yogurt. Mix everything together.
- After your falafels are baked, drizzle them with some olive oil and serve with warm pitta bread, pomegranate salad and yogurt sauce.