Sunday, 22 June 2008

Falafel - the skinny version (and a get well soon)

I’m a sucker for fancy breads, I freely admit it. When I was a child I would only eat what Israel Grandma called ‘flannel bread’ – ie, it looked and tasted like a wash-cloth. Munchkin Granny liked her grains and seeds and granary goodness, but for me, the less character my sandwich had, the better. Now I’m firmly in her camp, and flannel bread never darkens our bread bin. Take me to a bakery and I’ll make a beeline for the loaves with nary a glance at the cakes. So when Dogophile Vegan Super Nurse and I were in the fancy supermarket in Brighton last weekend it was inevitable we’d end up lingering in the bread section. There were several which took my fancy, but I was strict and only allowed myself one choice – some Turkish pitta breads. Now, what better to go in a pitta than their Middle Eastern friends, some falafel? By coincidence I’d been telling DVSN about my favourite recipe, so this was also a good opportunity to make sure I posted the recipe for her to try.

I have eaten falafel in Israel, and they are amazing. There’s something about the whole street food experience with the oily, spicy, beany falafel, the fine-chopped tomato and cucumber which make up all Israeli salads, the creamy houmous, and the optional extra relishes and chillis, all packaged in a neat white little envelope, which really appeals – and especially since it is all vegetarian. On a healthy eating level, however, it’s not so good, and so I use a skinnied down version when I make them at home. They’re not the same, of course – you need the oil from deep frying to get the authentic experience, but they’re really good in their own way. They are also ludicrously easy and store-cupboard-based – just whizz the ingredients up together, shape into balls, and either bake under the grill or fry in a very light coating of oil. Baking is perfectly acceptable, but experience has shown that frying them in even the teeniest bit of oil does give the burgers a slightly better taste. We served them up with the pittas, some salad, and some tomato relish, though houmous or a tahini dressing are, of course, the traditional toppings. The pittas were larger and floppier than the ones you get in supermarkets here (and falafel stalls in Israel), and so we rolled the little burgers up inside them like a tortilla instead of stuffing them inside. Needless to say, they tasted just as good.

Skinnied-up falafel, with pitta bread and couscous salad

Before I write out the recipe (which was copied from a book which belonged to my friend Vicki, so I can't credit it properly, unfortunately), here is a little cheer-up photo for Kiwi Sis, who is sick and in bed. She's only a few weeks off her due date, and Munchkin has been ill too, so they're not the happiest household at the moment. Kiwi Bro is playing nurse, and I think they're all looking forward to Munchkin Granny arriving in just 10 days. Here is the piggle cat having a Sunday chillout in my lap, which is a cute enough image to cheer anyone up anyway, but she is also showcasing a peek of my current quilt project (apologies, people I make quilts for. There is frankly no chance that it won't have been sat on by a cat before it was finished). Who can this one be for though? Let's just say it's got a long journey before it meets its new owner. Get well soon, Kiwi Sis - I hope the photo makes you smile.

My favourite falafel

Serves 4 (but halves easily)

2 cans chickpeas
1 small onion, in chunks
handful of parsley leaves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp each ground coriander and cumin
6 tbsp plain flour and extra for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil [I just use a spray when frying]

Put the first 6 ingredients into a food processor. Season, then pulse into a chunky paste [I used to use a mini blender but it's a bit small even for a half quantity to go in in one go.] Tip onto a floured surface and mould into burger shapes.

Dust with a little more flour. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry for two minutes on each side until crisp. OR, brush with a little oil and cook under a preheated grill for 8-10 minutes on each side until browned.


Anonymous said...

Falafel is one of my favorite dishes. WIth our household planning to gradually make a shift to a more vegetatian lifestyle it will be coming back into rotation.

Thank you for sharing this "skinny" version.

Holler said...

Lovely, lovely food! I am enjoying Turkish Pitta bread here in the North of Cyprus. Yum. But it would be even better with some of that falafel!

I love your cat and quilt :)

tracy said...

Just catching up on your blog. This looks wonderful - I can't wait to try it. I've been looking for some new ideas for lunch foods.

The star of this post is, however, piggle cat, who just elicited a collective "awwwww" from our household. She's scrumptious!