Falafels are that ubiquitous Middle Eastern item – savoury, crunchy, fried balls of beany-goodness. Some may say falafels are Israeli, there may be other countries laying claim to the source of these delicious vegetarian protein-packed treats, but I am no food historian, so I won’t get into the debate. You can check out Wikipedia. Falafels are great on their own, eat with a tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste) dip, or as shown above with one of the chutneys Trinis serve with all our savoury deep fried goodies – in this case a boiled mango chutney. In fact, falafels are so similar to Trini kachouries (ground yellow split pea fritter), that they should be recognised as siblings. Falafels are also commonly served popped into pita bread, for a deliciously filling sandwich. Falafel like this is street food, and like the Trini doubles, or bake and shark, they’re sold with “a vast variety of ingredients and sauces to fill … falafel (pita) sandwiches” (burekaboy‘s Falafel 101 is an excellent guide and recipe to perhaps more authentic Falafel).
While the most commonly found falafel is made from chickpeas (channa, an ingredient extremely familiar to Caribbean people, especially Trinis), Egyptians traditionally made theirs from fava beans. Mom always made hers using lentils and bulgur wheat. Much more like a vegetarian kibbe actually. She says it’s because she never liked fava beans, so…lentils…after all she grew up with it in jedra!. And burekaboy noted that his Lebanese neighbours added bulgur. So Syrian-Lebanese-Trini variation maybe.
This recipe is really simple. Really. Soak beans for 24 hours, add lots of fresh herbs and aromatics. Use food processor or blender if you want a smoother texture. And fry. Voila. Don’t believe me?
Makes about 40
- 1/2 lb dry chick peas
- 1/2 lb dry lentils (or use 1 lb chick peas)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup chopped fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, chives, shadow benny/cilantro etc)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp geera (cumin)
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- salt and black pepper to taste (taste the batter raw, go ahead)
- possibly a few tbsps of flour (or dhal flour)
1. Soak beans in enough water to cover about 2 inches over. Add baking soda. Leave for 18-24 hours.
2. Rinse beans well and let drain.
3. Put beans and all other ingredients in food processor or blender and zap away. (I like the food processor because I like it chunkier – it’s super crunchy that way and I love the texture).
4. You can store this in the fridge for a couple days, although I have noticed that it might need a little flour to bind after this.
5. Put about 2 inches of oil in a heavy pot and heat to medium high.
6. Check the mix to see if it needs flour – squeeze a golf ball sized in your hand and see if it sticks together. If it does, then take a heaping tablespoon of the mix, shape into a slightly flattened ball and fry. If it holds up and doesn’t burn, then you’re good to go without flour and the oil isn’t too hot. If the mixture breaks up in your hand or in the oil, then add a few tablespoons of flour and mix so it can be shaped easily. Until you get the hang of it, fry one at a time. Keep hands moist.
7. Fry the falafel until golden brown (lentils in the mixture will make it a bit browner) and drain on paper.
Serve with a tahini dip (maybe recipe to follow, although I relied on Mom to do this!) or a spicy Trini chutney (tamarind is really really good).
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