dairy free / Free from / Fruit & veg / gluten-free / vegan / vegetarian

Middle Eastern treat: Baked falafel

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I have always wanted to travel to the Middle East. The long and complex history and rich culture alone make it a region worth visiting but I would be fibbing if I didn’t admit that the food is the main hook. I close my eyes and picture the scene: still-warm pita and proper kebabs, smoky baba ganoush and fresh hummus, falafel on every street corner, exotic spice blends, juicy dates and pomegranates, the list just goes on and on. This is seriously my kind of food. I long to go, armed with my camera and notepad and taste and touch everything, asking a thousand questions along the way, returning with a mind bursting with new ideas and a suitcase bursting with edible titbits. And Yotam Ottolenghi reminds me that this trip is long overdue every time I walk past his mouthwatering Islington HQ *shakes fist*.

But for now I must content myself with playing make-believe. I’ve got hummus and baba ganoush under my belt and these falafel have been a long long time in the making. I’ve been promising this recipe left, right and centre to people but I’ve been taking my time, tweaking it to get it just right, and perfecting a gluten-free version too. I’m also not personally a fan of deep-fat frying (the kit, the hazardous abundance of oil, the smell, the fattiness…) so I’ve been on a mission to develop a recipe for baking falafel in the oven without compromising on taste or texture. So by popular demand…

Ta da!

Baked to a crisp on the outside and a juicy, bright GREEN on the inside (from all the fresh herbs, no spirulina here, promise!), these little beauties are packed with flavour.  The secret addition of hemp seeds adds nuttiness and texture, as well as bucket-loads of protein and omega 3. You can find hemp seeds at health food shops (Ocado too if you shop online) but if you don’t fancy giving them a go, see below for a simple substitution.

Pair with hummus and a crunchy salad for a moreish crowd-pleasing light lunch or supper.

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Baked falafel

Makes 12 falafel – serves 2-3

Ingredients:

– 3 cloves garlic
– bunch fresh coriander (approx. 15 stalks), including stalks, roughly chopped
– bunch fresh parsley (approx. 15 stalks), including stalks, roughly chopped
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for cooking
– 1 small red onion, quartered
– 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
– 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
– pinch cayenne
– 1 teaspoon baking powder*
– good pinch salt
– 2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds**
– 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– hummus, to serve 

*If you’re gluten-free, make sure you use GF baking powder.
**You can substitute with 2 tablespoons plain flour instead if desired. 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place a cast iron pan inside to get nice and toasty. Tip: Using cast iron helps with crisping up the outside of the falafels. If you don’t have one, don’t worry – just use the heaviest, ovenproof pan you have and don’t forget to preheat it!

Blitz the garlic, fresh coriander, parsley and oil in a blender until minced. Add the onion, spices, baking powder and salt and blitz again until the onion is finely chopped. Add the hemp seeds and chickpeas and pulse until roughly combined. Tip: Don’t go crazy on the blitzing or you lose texture and end up with a puree – I like to leave a few chickpeas almost whole too. To keep your mixture dry enough, it is also a good idea to pat the chickpeas dry with kitchen towel before adding.

With wet hands, form into balls – a little smaller than a golf ball. Tip: Once rolled, arrange on a sheet of clingfilm to stop the balls sticking to your work surface.

Remove your preheated pan from the oven and brush generously with olive oil. Place the falafels in the pan, spaced apart, flatten slightly, and brush with oil. Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway, until firm and golden.

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Source: Recipe and photos by pip & little blue.

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