I’m a big fan of falafel, and recently discovered how simple it is to make from scratch. Almost like making hummus, only chunkier and with an extra step. You blitz chickpeas, onions, garlic, cilantro with a bit of flour (use brown rice flour for gluten-free falafel) and spices to a chunky mash, then shape the mixture into little balls or patties and fry them until golden in a skiff of oil in a hot skillet.
Making falafel myself means I can control the crispiness factor (flattening balls into small patties maximizes surface area, which means more crunch) and add own creamy, garlicky tzatziki. (I like lots – you’ll find a tzatziki recipe below.) Make-your-own falafels remind me of the make-your-own taco nights we had as kids; serve them with soft pitas, chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, purple onion and olives. Everyone likes to make their own.
Some of the kids aren’t fans of falafel yet. They defaulted to spaghetti. More for the grown-ups.
By the way, these are vegan falafel, if you don’t serve them with yogurt-based tzatziki.
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch dried chili flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour (plus extra, if needed)
1 tsp. baking powder
canola oil, for frying
Put the chick peas, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, salt and chili flakes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined but not smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until you have a soft mixture that you can roll into balls without sticking to your hands. Add another spoonful or so of flour, if you need to.
Roll the dough into meatball-sized balls, and if you like, flatten each into a little pattie. I like doing this for maximum surface area, which equals more crunch. (They also cook through more quickly as the distance between the middle to the exterior is shorter.)
In a shallow pot or skillet, heat about 1/2″ of canola oil until it’s hot but not smoking. Test it with a bit of falafel mixture or a scrap of bread – the oil should bubble up around it. Cook the falafel for a few minutes per side, without crowding the pan (which will cool down the oil), until they are golden. Transfer to paper towels. (You could get away with using just a skiff of oil – if you do this, best to leave the falafels round, so that you can roll them around in the pan to brown all sides.)
Serve in pitas with tzatziki, chopped cucumber, purple onion and tomato.
Makes about 20 falafel balls or patties.
Regular yogurt, preferably thick Greek yogurt, is far superior to the runny low fat or fat free varieties that are most commonly found at the grocery store. Even ‘full fat’ yogurts generally only contain about 3 grams per half cup, and it’s much more delicious and satisfying. If you want thicker tzatziki, drain your yogurt in a sieve lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth before you begin.
1 small English cucumber, unpeeled
1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups good quality plain yogurt, preferably Balkan-style
Salt & pepper to taste
Grate the cucumber with a box grater onto a double thickness of paper towel. Gather up the cucumber in the towel and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. (If you don’t mind runnier tzatziki, you can skip this step.)
Combine cucumber, garlic, yogurt, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir until well blended. If you like, add a squeeze or lemon. The garlic flavor will intensify the longer it sits. Makes 2 1/2 – 3 cups.
Per 1/3 cup: 45 calories, 1 g total fat (0.6 g saturated fat, 0.3 g monounsaturated fat, 0.1 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.5 g protein, 5.6 g carbohydrate, 3.7 mg cholesterol, 0.3 g fiber. 20% calories from fat.