Updated: Nov 14, 2020
I have ALWAYS loved Falafel. There is a place on Kent Terrace in Wellington, NZ called 'Phoenician Falafel' that I used to frequent in my student days. Their falafel always had this aromatic undertone that no others that I tried did - cinnamon and cardamom were there I am SURE! So anyway, I've mixed a few of my favourite recipes to come up with this one. Just make sure you DON'T use tinned chickpeas. They're too tender and absolutely won't work for falafel. It takes very little effort to soak them anyway - they're not cooked as well. These have been a revelation for my six-year-old who is now obsessed with falafel and likes them 'even more than sausages'. Now THAT is an endorsement! Remember to start these at least a day before so you have time for the chickpeas to soak.
Makes about 24 falafel
2 cups/500g dried chickpeas (NOT canned or cooked chickpeas)
½ tsp baking soda
1 small onion, quartered
Juice of 1 lemon
8 garlic cloves, peeled
A large bunch (about 1 cup) of fresh parsley leaves, stems removed
A large bunch (1 cup) of fresh coriander leaves, stems removed
A bunch (about ½ cup) fresh dill, stems removed
1 Tbsp chickpea or wheat flour
Sea salt to taste - a fair amount!
Plenty of milled black pepper (about 1 Tbsp)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp cinnamon (or more if you're game!)
½ tsp ground cardamom, or seeds crushed from 4 pods in a pestle & mortar
½-1 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Oil for frying
Place the dried chickpeas and baking soda (this helps the chickpeas soften) in a large bowl and fill with water with 3-4 inches above the chickpea level. Soak overnight for 16-18 hours, drain and pat them dry with a few paper towels or clean tea towel.
In a large food processor (I have this one (3.5L) and it fits perfectly, but if yours is smaller, you will need to do this in two batches) add the chickpeas, herbs, onions, garlic, egg, flour and spices. Pulse the mixture for 40 seconds at a time until it's well-combined with a sort of mealy-paste texture. Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour (overnight is even better).
Just before frying, add the baking powder and sesame seeds to the falafel mixture and mix well. With about a tablespoon of mixture, form patties about a centimetre thick. Heat a pan with about three inches of oil (groundnut/vegetable/canola... any of these will do) on medium-high until it bubbles a little. Gently drop the patties in to the oil (in batches) with a slotted spoon or tongs and cook for 3-5 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and place on paper towels to drain a little.
Serve the falafel in hot pita bread with hummus, tzatziki, tomatoes, mint, lettuce.. or as part of a selection of meze.
For the Tzatziki, mix 400g greek yoghurt with 1 cucumber, grated, 1 crushed garlic clove, a bunch of finely chopped mint, a wee bunch of finely chopped dill, some salt and pepper.