Authentic Falafel

Claiming authenticity for my falafel recipe is asking for trouble, really, seeing as so many other people do the same. There is even a copyright dispute over falafel between Lebanese and Palestinian claimants to the recipe. However, my claim is far more basic; it is to do with the state of the chick peas when they go into the mix.

When you look up how to make falafel you will come across two camps (this is the problem with the internet).  One camp will tell you to use raw chick peas – soaked, but raw – which sounds odd and the other camp will tell you to use cooked chick peas; they are wrong. It is the simply soaked, but not cooked, chick pea falafel recipe which works and it works because that’s the way it’s been made in the Middle East since the ancients invented it thousands of years ago. Egyptians favour the fava bean over the chick pea but again, they use it raw.

Put your chick peas in soak overnight (with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda) or before you go to work in the morning and they will be ready to work with when you wake up or when you come home from work. I won’t lie to you, making falafels is no quick fix for dinner, it’s a labour of love but boy is it worth it if you are a falafel fan. It will also save you a bundle of money. The best falafels I’ve ever had are either the ones from Solly’s in Golders Green or the ones from Mr Falafel in Shepherd’s Bush, it’s a tough call, but they both charge the best part of a tenner for two. Making your own brings them down to more like £1.50 apiece.

The other components of the falafel as a whole, i.e the falafel sandwich as it were, may vary from place to place but there is always some form of salad, something pickled (I use gherkins), some raw onion and generally there is fresh tomato. They can come wrapped in flatbread or in pittas. In terms of sauce, they come with one of  many variations on the theme of chilli sauce and then there is either a garlic sauce, a yogurt sauce or a sesame-based sauce, the latter being the more authentic. I use Sriarcha chilli sauce and sesame paste thinned with cider vinegar, water and salt for my two sauces.

Ingredients

9 oz chick peas, soaked

1 egg

1 tsp each chilli, cumin, cinnamon, chilli and salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp flour

1 handful each flat leaf parsley and coriander

For the sandwich:-

Salad ingredients of your choice

Some type of pickled ingredient (gherkin, red cabbage, etc)

Two sauces, as above.

Flatbreads – you can’t really beat the ones bought in middle eastern shops (for one thing you won’t be able to make them big enough at home) or pittas

Method

This is going to sound really simple but that’s because it is; put all the ingredients for the falafels into a blender and pulse until the mixture is ground down to about the size of large breadcrumbs (the chick peas, that is, the parsley and coriander will come along for the ride so you don’t need to worry what size they are). You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of the blender.

Shape into balls. I do this using  a tablespoon measure. I pack on as much mixture as I can get onto it, round it with the palm of my hand, pack it down and tap it out.

Prepare your salad, pickles, onion and tomato by cutting them into fine strips. Lay a little of each out onto the flatbreads or in the pittas so you’re ready to serve in quick succession. Heat the oil until it’s hot enough to fry the falafels. Test it in the usual way by dropping a piece of bread into it. If the bread bobs up to the top, golden brown, in 30 seconds or so it’s ready. Fry the falafels in small batches – they only take a minute – and drain on kitchen paper. Then very quickly get them onto your prepped flatbread/pitta and salad. Add the sauce, roll them up if using flatbreads or poke them in if using pittas and eat them hot.  This is one of those dishes where people get them in turn as they become ready and the chef gets theirs last.

Makes four felafels.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Authentic Falafel

  1. kyrill ignatchev

    sounds very very good.
    but there are more than two camps
    – those who do not add flour
    – those who not add egg(s)
    -those who mix it with fava beans (33%)

    I have reservation with the flour is it really necessary?
    I also believe in the past they did not had blenders, so the texture was less even which may add to the taste.
    In the past there was no baking powder, would real yeast add to the taste in a positive way?
    kyrill

  2. John

    Hi,

    I have a question- The first time I tried making falafel I used soaked, uncooked chickpeas that had been ground in a meat grinder, a little flour, some onion, garlic, parsley, etc. I formed them into patties, not balls, and fried them about half covered in oil, flipping when the bottom was cooked. The result was that the outside was stiff and clunky and the inside tasted like raw beans. Then I tried making them with cooked chickpeas and they were ok, maybe a little soft and mushy on the inside. I’d like to make them with soaked chickpeas as that is the traditional way, but I just don’t see how the beans can adequately cook in a couple minutes like that. Any suggestions? Maybe double grind the chickpeas? Thanks for any help.

    • I have tried different ways of making felafels, too – including baking them and it just does not work. You have to deep fry them in hot oil. It’s the only thing that works and I guess the intense heat of the oil cooks the rehydrated chick peas.
      jo

  3. Kyrill,
    I agree people in the past did not have blenders but I think we also underestimate either their ingenuity or their patience. I’m quite sure they found ways of making an even consitency. I’m not sure about leaving out the flour. I guess you could try. I’d just be worried they would fall to bits in the frying oil. Let me know what heppens if you do try it though!

    jo

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