One of the first dishes my partner, Ahmad shared with me was his secret falafel recipe. The secret? Three ingredients: chickpeas, garlic and salt. No herbs, no spices. Keep it simple, keep it pure, and keep it traditional, says Ahmad.
Coming from Ahwaz, Iran close to the Iraq border, Ahmad recalls the popular fast food mostly sold from food carts and stalls along the street. Customers pay for their bread only. They are then free to stuff their bread with as much falafel, pickles, salad and sauce as they like.
It is this kind of generosity that you see in so many food cultures. It keeps appetites satisfied and spirits light. It is this kind of generosity that brings people together and it is why I love to make falafel at home. It reminds me that simple cooking using low-cost ingredients creates food for the soul. In a society that occupies our minds and souls with ‘more is more’, I can make falafel and feel content with sharing a meal with my family. Simple.
When I make falafel I always soak double the quantity of chickpeas overnight so that I can use half to make falafel and the other half to make hummus. I divide the quantities up and freeze them too. Both defrost very well and will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator.
- 3 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 2 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
In a food processor place the chickpeas, garlic and salt. Process, adding a tablespoon of water at a time (about 2-3 usually) until a thick, finely ground mixture results. It will look like wet sand and can be dolloped like a thick cream. You may not make it right the first time, but persist because it’s well worth it. The more you make it the more you know what you are looking for.
Now, after getting the consistency the way we like it, I divide the mixture into about three and freeze two batches, but this depends on how many you need to feed. We are a family of two adults and two young children; so about 2 cups of falafel mixture is enough for us.
The falafel mixture is now ready for shaping and frying.
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat enough vegetable oil for deep-frying the falafel (around 2 cups). Tip: you can reuse your oil a few times for frying falafel in. Once cooled I pour mine through a fine sieve into a jar and keep it in the pantry for next time.
Using a falafel thingy-me-bob (like the one pictured) dip it into a cup of water (to stop it from sticking) hold down the lever and fill, shape and slide the falafel into the hot oil. Alternatively, use two large spoons to shape a falafel for frying.
Cook until the falafel is golden on one side before turning over and cooking on the other side.
Drain the falafel on paper towel.
The falafel should be golden on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside.
Enjoy with anything you fancy, so long as you have something sour and crunchy to eat it with.
We enjoy eating falafel with our yoghurt flat bread, garlic sauce, chilli sauce, pickled cucumbers and lettuce. But for something special, and colourful, pumpkin hummus and beetroot tzatziki is great too.