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Falafels

Falafels

Falafel is a traditionally Arab food. The word falafel may descend from the Arabic word fal?fil, a plural of the word filfil, meaning "pepper". These fried vegetarian fritters are often served along with hummus and tahini sauce (known as a “falafel plate.”) They’re also great served with toum, a Middle Eastern garlic sauce. So just what is the history of this tasty little fritter? According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, “The first known appearance of legume fritters (aka falafel) in the Middle East appears to be in Egypt, where they were made from dried white fava beans (ful nabed) and called tamiya/ta-amia (from the Arabic for ‘nourishment’); these fritters were a light green colour inside. Many attribute tamiya to the Copts of Egypt, who practiced one of the earliest forms of Christianity. They believed that the original state of humankind was vegetarian and, therefore, mandated numerous days of eating only vegan food, including tamiya.”

Servings: approx. 20 falafels

Ingredients

1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans - you must start with dry, do NOT substitute canned, they will not work!

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3-5 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tbsp flour or chickpea flour

1 3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Pinch of ground cardamon

Rapeseed oil for frying 

Method

Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak – you will have between 4 and 5 cups of beans after soaking.

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour or chickpea flour (use chickpea flour to make gluten free), salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that... but do not overprocess, you do not want it turning into hummus!

Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Fill a skillet with rapeseed oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands. The balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry.

Before frying my first batch of falafel, I like to fry a test one in the centre of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown (5-6 minutes total). If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Cool the oil down slightly and try again. When the oil is at the right temperature, fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides.

Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon.

Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot; they go best with a plate of hummus and topped with creamy tahini sauce. You can also stuff them into a pita.

Troubleshooting: If your falafel is too hard/too crunchy on the outside, there are two possible reasons - you did not process the mixture enough-- return the chickpea mixture to the processor to make it more paste-like.

- the chickpeas you used were old. Try buying a fresher batch of dried chickpeas next time.

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