Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Falafel


Makes 20-25

These fluffy chickpea fritters are variations of a theme from all over the Middle East, but this version in particular was one of the highlights of a trip I've just had to Cairo, and to my mind, one of the finest street food of all. They are easy enough to make at home, either in the traditional manner, as deep-fried, slightly flattened balls, or as little flat patties cooked in shallow fat. Home-made falafel tends to be less fluffy than shop-bought versions. Adding one egg to the ground-up mixture gives a lighter texture, but it's not authentic and it makes the dough softer and a bit trickier to handle.

100g dried chickpeas (soaked in cold water with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda)
200g split dried broad beans soaked overnight in cold water with 1tsp bicarbonate of soda (or use more chickpeas instead)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
50g bunch of coriander, with most of the stalk discarded
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp Lebanese 7 spice mixture or ground allspice
A pinch of cayenne pepper
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying

Rinse the chick peas and beans and drain them well. Put them in a food processor with all the other ingredients (except the vegetable oil) and start the motor. You may need to stop the machine and scrape down the bowl a few times, but keep going until the mixture is a fine, sandy paste

Shape the mixture into walnut sized balls, rolling them in the palms of your hands. If they come out in a slightly pointed, spinning top shape, so much the better, since this is very authentic. (At this point the balls can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost them before frying.)

Heat the oil about 5cm deep in a saucepan. Drop a piece of bread in the oil to check if it is hot enough. The oil should bubble around it. Fry the falafel in batches, for 3-4 minutes, turning them occasionally, until deep golden brown all over. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Although tahini is one of the traditional lubricants for these crisp fritters, I much prefer yoghurt. Particularly when it has had a little cayenne pepper and some chopped mint stirred into it and is spooned over the falafel.
Serve them hot, stuffed into warm pitta bread. Traditionally, a cucumber and tomato salad would be in there too.