Falafels must be one of my favourite foods (although to be fair, anything made of chickpeas is amazing!) I had my first falafel when I was about 10 and loved it! Of course, this was a traditional fried falafel (I didn’t know any better!) served in a soft, warm pita with tahini, salad and pickled veg… are you drooling yet?! Since then, I have had plenty of falafels – some great and some not so great (think dry, bland or too oily). By far, the most amazing falafels I have ever had are the ones I ate in Israel (which one could find on almost every street) and for good reason – it is the national dish of Israel (as well as Egypt and Palestine). In fact, its origins are very controversial and even the cause of many political disagreements. It is believed to have originated in Egypt, possibly as far back as to the time of the pharaohs, and thereafter spread to the rest of the Middle East. However, apparently the Egyptian falafel is made using fava beans rather than chickpeas.
Some interesting info: the word falafel is a derivative from the Aramaic derivative filfal or pilpāl meaning “small round thing”. However, I love the meaning from the Egyptian Arabic name, ta’amiya, meaning “small tasty thing” (so appropriate!)
Since my trip to Israel a few years ago, I no longer eat any gluten products and avoid fried foods (especially deep fried). This left me with a bit of a dilemma – the combination of fried falafels in a wheat pita was no longer an option. I will have a falafel salad now and then, but I don’t always feel great afterwards with all that oil. So when my cravings for a tasty and healthy falafel wouldn’t go away, I did some research on how to make this happen and the experimenting began. I knew I wanted to bake them instead of the traditional frying for obvious reasons, but I kept ending up with falafels which were either too dry or which crumbled and fell apart. Finally, I combined a few different recipes and adapted them according to my tastes and needs. The results? Delicious falafels which are golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside and completely healthy! I have also included the recipe for my basic tahini as what would falafels without tahini be?! Now, if anyone has a recipe for vegan, gluten free pitas, my perfect meal would be complete… but for now, I will continue to enjoy these in a gluten free wrap or on a fresh salad. I hope you enjoy them too!!
Time: 5-10min prep + 20-30min baking
Makes: about 25 falafels
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas/garbanzo (best to precook beforehand although I have also used tinned chickpeas with success – about 2 tins)
- 1 bunch parsley
- 2-3 tsp cumin powder
- 1-2 tsp herb salt (or ½ tsp sea salt)
- Juice of 1 lemon (use less if you don’t want it too lemony)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ – ½ cup almond flour (start with less and add more if necessary – will vary especially if using canned chickpeas)
Optional (for extra flavor):
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 TBS mixed herbs
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Preheat oven to 180 ºC/356ºF
- Add parsley, cumin (and other optional spices), salt, lemon and garlic to a food processor. Blend together until combined.
- Add chickpeas and pulse a few times until combined, but still a bit coarse (you want to still see pieces of chickpeas rather than a smooth paste).
- Place mixture in a bowl and stir in almond flour – the mixture should not be too sticky – if it is, add a bit more almond flour). Taste mixture and add more salt/lemon/cumin etc according to desired taste.
- Place dessert size spoonfuls of the mixture into your hands and roll into balls – flatten slightly and shape (I usually make them about 5cm/2 inches in diameter and about 2cm/1 inch thick). NB: if they seem to be too difficult to handle and need some firming up – place on a tray in the freezer for 15-30min (but I didn’t find this was necessary).
- Line a tray with a baking sheet (I used a silicon mat – these are amazing!) and place the raw falafel balls on top.
- Bake falafels in oven for 20-30min, flipping them over about 10min towards the end. Take care not to dry them out – they should slightly golden brown on the outside and soft inside.
- Serve in pitas/wraps (or on salad), add chopped veg (e.g. tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce/rocket/baby spinach, grated beetroot, grated carrot – be creative!) and finally, drizzle with a generous amount of tahini/hummus.
- P.S. If you have any leftovers (although I can almost guarantee you won’t) these falafels freeze wonderfully! Place in a freezer-safe container in the freezer, then pop onto a tray and into the oven when you next need them.
Tahini sauce is amazing drizzled over a salad, roast veg and of course, falafels! It also makes a great alternative to hummus, served with veg sticks to dip
- 4 TBS (1/4 cup) tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
- 2-3 TBS spring water
- 1-2 TBS lemon juice (depending on how lemony you want it)
- 1/4 tsp herb salt
- 1 clove garlic, grated/crushed
- Optional: 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Optional: 1 tsp cumin and a dash of cayenne
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand (can also use a hand whisk). Start with less water (2 TBS) then add more, according to desired consistency
- NB: At first, it will look like the ingredients are not combining and the the sauce will almost look “curdled” – keep mixing!!
- After about a minute, the ingredients will “magically” come together in a beautiful, smooth paste. The consistency will be almost like peanut/nut butter – great as a dip. For a more liquid consistency to drizzle over salads or falafels, add more water (a teaspoon at a time).
- Adjust salt/cumin/lemon juice according to taste.
NB: This tahini sauce will keep in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
For more healthy, plant-based recipes (drinks, meals, salads and desserts) follow my blog: https://z4zest.wordpress.com
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