Monday, May 19, 2008

Falafels - der Haroutunian

I love falafels, but until last week I had not succeeded in making decent ones. There is a good deal of variation between recipes. One I have seen suggests concocting the mixture by grounding up raw chick peas. Several contain grated onions, which, in my experience, make the patties or balls too soft: they absorb a huge amount of oil. Other efforts have fallen to bits. Recipe writers disagree over whether the falafels should be bound by flour, or by breadcrumbs and egg.

At last, I have had success, thanks to the ever-excellent Grub Street's reissue of Vegetarian Dishes of the Middle East by the late Arto der Haroutunian. (The company's website was not working when I checked.) What follows is an adaptation of his recipe: I used the quantity of chick peas that came in a jar rather than the 450g in his version, and I upped the cumin content. If you have a tin (standard drained weight: 225g) or two tins, you can adjust the quantities accordingly.

400g cooked chick peas
Salt, to taste (bottled or tinned chick peas may already be salty)
1/2tsp black pepper
1/2tsp turmeric
1tsp cumin, toasted over a gentle heat in a dry saucepan and ground
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed with a little salt
1tbsp tahini or olive oil
50g white breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
Sunflower oil, for deep frying

Whizz the chick peas in a food processor. Scrape the sides of the jug, and keep whizzing until you have a paste, which does not have to be completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in all the other ingredients except the flour and sunflower oil. You want a thick, sticky mass. If it won't cohere, add a little water.

Heat the oil -- you may need about a litre -- in a saucepan over a medium flame.

Form the chick pea mixture into balls or patties of whatever size you like. I went for eight patties. Roll them in flour.

Test the oil by dropping in a little piece of bread. If it sizzles, add the falafels -- I cooked them four at a time. You want them to take about five minutes to brown (so that they cook through), so adjust the flame accordingly. When they are ready, lift them from the oil with a slotted spoon on to paper towels. Then put them on to a plate in a very low oven while you cook the next batch.

We ate them with Greek yoghurt. Mine had minced garlic and chillis (fresh) stirred in.


Fiona Beckett said...

Quite excited at a possible solution to the felafel problem. Have been recording the trials and tribulations of attempting them on my blog The Frugal Cook. Made the mistake of attempting to grind them raw. Without a food processor. Suspect you need generations of felafel grinding experience to make that work. Will give your - or rather Arturo's - recipe a try!

Nicholas Clee said...

Thanks, Fiona. These actually firmed up as they fried. I hope they work for you!

I gave your blog a mention in a New Statesman column. (I am not sure how to get a long link into a comments box; you can find the piece, if you're interested, by going to the NS site, clicking "columnists", then "view all columns", then "food", then "bytes to eat".)

Fiona Beckett said...

Thank you very much! I also like the sound of Baking for Britain and Pomiane. The former has a delightful recipe for Deddington Pudding-Pie currently which looks splendidly frugal.

Like the sound of the spinach risotto too. Have you tried making risotto with pearl barley? That works pretty well.

Hippolyra said...

I have searched in vain for a falafel recipe that works. My last ones literally "melted" in the pan and I ended up putting the frying pan in the oven to bake them. I now go the path of least resistance and buy mix from the Middle Easten shop near me - but I want to get them right!

Nicholas - I greatly enjoyed Don't Sweat the Aubergine, my boyfriend is now reading it and as looked up on a number of occasions when reading and said "so that is why you do it like that!"

Fiona - I love pearl barley risotto - it takes longer to cook so I soak the barley all day, so it is ready to cook quickly when I get in. After all I am all about being fuss free and making life easy whilst eating healthily.

Nicholas Clee said...

Thank you, Hippolyra.

I hope this recipe works for you. The key is to get a mixture that is both firm and coherent. Too moist, and you get the oily blobs that were our earlier efforts; not moist enough, and the falafels fall to bits. Add the liquid ingredients -- the egg, and any water -- a little at a time.