Falafel are a common Middle Eastern street food made from ground chickpeas. Stuffed inside a pita bread with some salad and condiments, they are the equal of a great burger but without the calories.
Being such a ubiquitous street food, there are a large number of recipes out there. There is one critical point that sets the great recipes apart from the mundane – the use of dried chickpeas. If you use canned chickpeas you will be producing inferior falafel. The additional planning needed for using dried chickpeas (soaking overnight) results in such a superior product that there is really no room for discussion. So moving on…
Use a food processor to “grind” the soaked chickpeas. It gets the texture just right. Be sure to let the falafel dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the starch to seep out of the ground falafel. This helps the falafel balls retain their shape. Also, don’t make those balls too big. You want a good ratio of crisp exterior to moist interior. 15 to 20mm diameter works well.
Common condiments for falafel in pita bread are tahini, salad, hummus, and pickles. While I retained the tahini and salad, the other ingredients were less traditional: chilli jam and roast red peppers. The chilli jam added a particularly interesting dimension.
I have been interested in starting to bake my own breads. While these pita breads had that wonderful yeasty freshly baked bread smell, they were a lot of work. Use bought pita breads if bread making is not something you want to spend time on.
Herb infused falafel, chilli jam, green leaves, in home made pita pockets
- 375 g dry chickpeas about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 cups coarsely chopped mix of parsley, coriander, basil, and mint coriander, basil, and mint
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 8 spring onions coarsely chopped
- 3 long mild chillis deseeded and coarsely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
- Oil for frying
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tsp active yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Soak the dry chickpeas overnight in a large bowl. They will triple in size so ensure the bowl is large enough and there is enough water.
- The next day, drain the chickpeas and leave them in the colander to dry out for a while.
- Return the soaked and drained chickpeas to the large bowl together with all the other ingredients (except oil) and stir to evenly distribute.
- Use a food processor to blend the mixture to a coarse sand like consistency. It should not be smooth, but a little chunky.
- Allow the processed mixture to sit for 30 minutes. This allows the starch to seep out of the chickpeas and help bind the falafel together. Thanks Serious Eats for that tip.
- Form the processed mixture into balls about 2 to 3 cm in diameter.
- In a fry pan, skillet, or wok, bring the oil to a medium high heat, around 180 degC.
- Fry the falafel in batches, 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until brown and crisp.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Add the water and yeast to a large bowl and stir. Allow to sit until bubbles start to form, about 5 minutes.
- Add all the other ingredients and stir until it becomes a thick dough.
- Turn out on to a flat surface sprinkled with flour. Add more flour to the surface of the dough.
- Kneed the dough for 10 minutes. It will become quite elastic. Add more flour if it is sticking to your hands of board.
- Smear some olive oil in a large bowl and place the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for 1 to 2 hours.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each out into 20cm discs.
- You can bake the pitas in a very hot oven, or in a hot skillet on the stove top. I had better results with the latter.
- Bring the skillet to a medium high heat. Smear with a little olive oil.
- Add a pita to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds or so,
- Flip it over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until staring to get patches of brown.
- Flip it over again do the same for the other side.
- Cover with a clean dish towel while cooking the remaining pitas.
- Rinse, halve, and trim the red peppers.
- Bake in a 200 deg C oven for 40 minutes.
- Allow to cool then cut into strips.
- Wash and drain the green salad.
- Toss in delectabilia salad dressing.
- Form a pocket out of the pita bread.
- Smear chilli jam on one of the inside surfaces.
- Smear tahini on the other inside surface.
- Add the warm falafel, red peppers, and green salad.