Anyone who knows me vaguely well is undoubtedly aware of my passion for falafels. I LOVE them. They are probably my favourite food, especially when served with a good dollop of hummus and fresh salad. This was all sparked off during my art foundation in Falmouth, Cornwall where the most delicious falafels in Britain (and I should know – I’ve sampled my fair share) are sold from an amazing little company called Falfalafel. For those who don’t know falafels are made from whizzed up chickpeas (or sometimes broad or fava beans) with a tasty blend of garlic, onion and spices.
Chickpeas have been around for a long time, with evidence of their use and consumption in Neolithic Turkey and Greece, and in Bronze Age Italy. Today they are grown in a variety of places such as India, Australia and Ethiopia. I like to buy organic chickpeas from Turkey, which is one of the largest world producers of chickpeas. These little seeds (chickpeas are actually the seed of the plant) are such a great source of protein, which is ideal for vegetarians and vegans. They also contain manganese and high levels of iron which are good for boosting energy levels and defending antioxidants. Along with this chickpeas have a low GI (Glycaemic Index) value meaning their carbohydrate is broken down and digested gradually. They also contain lots of soluble fibre which helps to balance blood sugar levels and provide lots of slow-burning energy for your body.
Chickpeas are so fantastic and what better way to get them into your body than rolled up into little balls? Falafels are widely available in supermarkets but they almost always contain E numbers and other weird additives which are anything but healthy. I’ve been making falafels for a long time now, trying to create the best recipe for them – it’s an ongoing process but this is the most delicious one so far. It’s also vegan and gluten free. Falafels are super easy to make and honestly the yummiest thing so I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Makes approx 10 falafels:
- 1 cup/230g cooked chickpeas (canned chickpeas are fine, but they are so much tastier if you buy dried, soak them overnight with chopped garlic and then simmer for 45 minutes-1 hour with an unpeeled clove of garlic, sprig of rosemary and a couple of bay leaves)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small red onion
- ½ tablespoon of sunflower oil
- ½ tablespoon of garlic-infused olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon of paprika
- A handful of fresh curly or flat-leaf parsley
- A good grinding of salt and pepper
Start by preheating your oven to 180°C and roughly chopping the onion and cloves of garlic. Then place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend for about 20 seconds. Be sure not to over blend the mix – you want it to be fairly bitty, not totally smooth. If necessary blend for 10 seconds then give the ingredients a stir before blending for a further 10.
Next scoop out a small amount of the mixture in your fingers and roll between your palms to make fairly smooth balls. Be gentle when doing this as the texture is really important – if you tightly press the balls as you form them they can turn out too dense inside. You want that incredible light crumbly texture when you bite into them.
When you’ve formed all of the mixture into balls rub some sunflower oil into your fingers and palms and gently roll each falafel so they’re lightly coated. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes, turning them every few minutes to make sure they have a lovely golden hazelnutty colour all over.
Finally remove them from the oven, allow to cool slightly then serve with hummus and salad of your choice (inside a wholemeal pitta pocket is best and the most traditional, but for a gluten free option I like them on oat cakes). Bite and enjoy!