I hope you guys aren’t sick of my Dubai travel diaries yet. We’re just about to get to my favourite part! I want to know if you guys like these sorts of long-drawn travel diaries or prefer something shorter but more packed with my best pictures. Let me know on the comments down below!
Anyway, thanks to my reliving all those great moments at the UAE, I find myself having a craving for anything that’s even remotely related to the things I ate as I was there. I really wanted to make something special but being pressed for time I thought I’d just pick a recipe that was quick for now.
Of course, that means only one thing.
I walked right up to my cookbook shelf and dragged out my copy of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, aka the only Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cookbook I currently own. I bought it a while back and flipped though it a couple of times already but haven’t had the opportunity to make anything until now. Quite a few recipes have been marked with pink stickies but I wanted to try something a little easy for the time being, just to satisfy this sudden craving of mine.
It takes just one bite of these flavourful patties of wonderful to take me back to the land of spices.
Before I talk about the falafels, I wanted to mention that the book itself is quite gorgeous. It evokes the scenes and cultures of the Middle East quite effectively through its colourful pictures, and of course puts a heavy emphasis on its rich and flavourful cuisine. I’m a fan of all these flavourful food. And of the Jerusalem cookbook Falafel recipe? I’m a fan too.
So a falafel. Possibly one of the most popular street foods in the Middle East. Most people I know who have never tried one before mistake it for some sort of hash brown– made out of potatoes. I suppose the texture is a bit similar, but actually falafels are made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzos) which have been dried and ground into a thick paste. Some people are actually surprised when they find out about it, forgetting that in fact hummus is also made with the stuff.
Since chickpeas are essentially flavourless, they depend on the spices added to give them that one-two punch, which in this case involved onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne… The list goes on and let me tell you, when these flavours all come together… Yummm. That’s really the thing about Middle Eastern (and Indian!) cuisine. They have a looong list of spices in the recipes, but it’s all well worth it in the end!
Normally falafels are rolled into thick oblong-ish small patties, then deep fried. It’s essential for the frying oil to permeate the patties to heat it through and make the whole thing stick together. But me being me, which is to say someone who isn’t a fan of deep-frying, and one who sometimes gets into the mood to experiment, I decided to just fry the patties with considerably less oil. Of course that meant I had to make them thinner too.
I must say, I don’t recommend for you all to follow my lead on this one, because nearly all my falafels broke apart the moment I flipped them over. Fritters are meant to be deep fried, no question! I didn’t get that firm crunch with my thin patties either, which is one of the things I love about these fat balls of browned happiness. But at least the most important factor didn’t change: flavour. I really love the cumin and cilantro flavours the most in these patties.
These truly look so nice browned. Normally falafels are eaten inside pita breads but we like to eat it with quinoa more. Scratch that, we like to eat everything with quinoa. 🙂
How very apt of this book to say that. Good falafels indeed! 🙂
Makes 15 to 20 balls
- 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) dried chickpeas
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 onion, or 80 grams)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (I omitted)
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- about 3 cups (750 mL) flavourless oil, for deep-frying
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, for coating
- 1. The night before, place chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least twice their volume. Set aside to soak overnight.
- 2. The next day, drain the chickpeas well and pour them into a food processor. Add in the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. Blitz the mixture until everything is finely chopped, but not overly mushy or pasty. It should be able to hold itself together.
- 3. Add in the spices, baking powder, salt, flour, and water. Mix using a wooden spoon until well-blended and smooth. Cover the mixture and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- 4. Fill a deep, heavy-bottomed pan with enough oil to come up to 2-3/4 inches on the side of the pan. Heat the oil up to 350°F (180°C).
- 5. Meanwhile, with wet hands press 1 Tablespoon of the mixture in the palm of your hand to form a fat oblong-ish patty. (The ball would be about 25 grams in weight.)
- 6. Sprinkle the balls evenly with sesame seed and deep-fry in batches of two to three for 4 minutes, until well-browned and cooked through. Giving the patties enough time in the oil will dry them out on the inside, preventing them from falling apart once lifted from the oil.
- 7. Drain cooked patties in colander and serve immediately while hot. Serve with warm pita bread and lettuce, or with quinoa.
I really should make these again!