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.
9 oz chick peas, soaked
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
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.