Having several vegetarian friends, I’m constantly on the lookout for delicious, meatless meals everyone can enjoy. Last weekend, with the sun shining brightly and a nice temperature outside, another pot of bean soup seemed totally unappealing. That’s why I decided to try a homemade version of spicy falafels. The resultant spicy falafel balls were a revelation. Lighter than restaurant and street cart versions, these falafels were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and flavored lusciously with freshly chopped cilantro and parsley. Falafel dough — a mixture of chunky puréed chickpeas and onions along with fresh herbs — is surprising easy to blend and shape into balls. The Oxford Companion to Food reckons that falafel’s “extremely ancient” origins lie in Egypt, where it is still an immensely popular snack. It is also one of the national dishes of Israel as well as showing strongly in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan.
2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g can chickpeas, washed and drained
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
handful parsley, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
1 egg, beaten
To prepare spicy falafels, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan, then fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5 mins until softened. Tip into a large mixing bowl with the chickpeas and spices, then mash together with a fork or potato masher until the chickpeas are totally broken down. Stir in the parsley or dried herbs, with seasoning to taste. Add the egg, then squish the mixture together with your hands.
Mould the mix into 6 balls, then flatten into patties. Heat the remaining oil in the pan, then fry the falafels on a medium heat for 3 mins on each side, until golden brown and firm. Serve spicy falafels hot or cold with couscous, pita bread or salad.