Falafel is, perhaps, the original street gourmet food of the Middle East. While its origins remain shrouded, the inimitably vague finger of academia has pointed to it being first made in Egypt, perhaps as a meat-substitute during Lent.
Whatever the beginnings of falafel, its popularity quickly spread throughout the Middle East and subsequently across the globe. It, for instance, represents the beating heart of Bristol’s burgeoning street food scene, providing sustenance for the city’s creative industries.
Though originally thought to be made using fava beans (the Egyptian way), falafel now more commonly features chickpeas. Either is good, though both present similar pitfalls. Indeed, if you’ve ever had falafel fall apart during cooking you’ve likely made the biggest mistake of all; using tinned pulses.
Falafel absolutely must be made using dried – and then soaked – chickpeas. The saturation of tinned chickpeas precludes them from being used in falafel. Don’t even try it, you’d be better off defenestrating your hard earned cash.
The other thing not to do is cook your chickpeas before frying the falafel. This isn’t necessary and will likely result in the same soggy mess as above. We usually soak twice the amount of chickpeas, divide in two and cook half for hummus (leaving to cool before blending) and leave half for falafel.
Makes 15-20 falafel
- 200g dried chickpeas (soaked, as per packet instructions)
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 ½ tbsp plain flour
- 1 tsp cumin, ground
- ½ tsp cinnamon, ground
- ¼ tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- A little black pepper
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Tip the chickpeas, onion and garlic into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not yet hummus-like in consistency.
- Tip in the flour, cumin, cinnamon, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Mix together well until it comes together as a coarse paste. If you find the mixture a little dry add a splash of water.
- Bring your frying oil to temperature in your chosen pan (I use a wok). Once the oil has reached frying temperature, shape the falafel into balls using an ice cream scoop and cook a few at a time.
- Each falafel should take around 4 minutes to brown and cook fully. If yours colour faster than that try turning the temperature down.
- Once cooked, use a slotted spoon to set the falafel aside in a bowl lined with kitchen roll to soak away any excess oil. Leave to cool briefly before eating.
You shouldn’t have to spend more than around £1 to make around 20, which is enough for 4-5 people. Those street food stalls are making an absolute killing.