I feel a particular attachment to falafel as I feel that they must be part of my culinary culture as a Jew. Our relatives were from Eastern Europe so they're not exactly part of our own cultural cuisine, but with morsels as tasty as that I am prepared to invoke a sort of innate predisposition. Falafel stands are ubiquitous in Israeli towns, and are a brilliant standby for hungry backpacking vegetarians (nay, even vegans as long as you're careful about the dressings). There's a little falafel takeaway joint in the parade of shops near Israel Grandma's flat, and one time I was there I went on an errand to pick some up for everyone. Each portion is a big round pitta - not at all like the elongated tear-drop shaped ones you get from the supermarket here (I like them so much that I've been known to bring packets of them back in my suitcase). Into this goes a load of salad - always including very finely cut up tomato and cucumber - a few big round wonderfully greasy and fragrant falafel, and your choice of extra condiments, chillis, and sauces. I always pick hummus, but tahini dressing is another alternative. It's all wrapped up in a serviette so you don't get completely covered in hummus and grease, and there you are - a tasty, filling and vegetarian-friendly meal on the hoof.
I've posted before about my home-made falafel which are really only Anglicised and healthied up cousins of the real things, but which are equally tasty in a different way. When I saw a post on A Spoonful of Sugar about sweet potato falafel from London health-food take-away chain Leon I leapt to the opportunity to combine one of my favourite foods with one of my favourite vegetables. The falafel are made of mashed roast sweet potato, seasoned well and bound together with chickpea flour to retain some of the taste/spirit of the chickpeas in falafel. They sounded so tasty that immediately I promoted them to the menu for Munchkin Granny's birthday dinner, which took place last weekend. She saw the bookmarked recipe on my laptop and thought it sounded good, so was very pleased to hear it was going to appear on her plate.
I have to admit that I microwaved the potatoes - I just can't bring myself to heat the oven for just a few little spuds, and I didn't need it for anything else. Since it's the skin that benefits most from oven baking though, I don't think it lost out. I also didn't want to buy chickpea flour just for one recipe so I ground up dried chickpeas in my coffee grinder. It probably wasn't quite as fine as bought flour but I quite liked the added texture. And that's all that needs saying about the recipe really - it was very easy and very tasty indeed. I served the sesame-seed-topped falafel with the quick mango chutney from Veganomicon, fried halloumi and some shredded and stir fried sprouts with lemon and almonds. We all liked all the components and we'll definitely be making the falafel again.
For dessert I made cider and ginger poached pear with orange shortbread, but my photos were so awful that I will just have to say that they were tasty too. I just can't get the hang of food photography in the winter evenings. I particularly liked the gingery poaching liquid poured over the top of the pears, but I think that the fifteen minutes the recipe gave for poaching was wrong by a factor of three or so! My pears were rather hard and presented a bit of a danger to one's dignity when trying to eat them with a spoon out of a bowl. Still, Munchkin Granny took them in the birthday spirit they were intended!
I hadn't heard of Leon before I read Angela's post but I'm keen to try them out next time I'm in London now. The link features their menus - look out for those falafel! The menu (featured in The Guardian is here)