Well, everyone loves falafel. It has become one of the most popular Israeli and Middle Eastern foods internationally! Just like the hummus every country in the region claims it as it's own invention. And like I said in my hummus post, (sorry to repeat, but it's the truth) every country is correct.
There are many variations of this delicious healthy option but the one I know best is the one I grew up with. Today falafel is mainly a restaurant item even in Israel, with some exceptions.
When I was a kid growing up in my little 1950s Moshav (village), you had to go to the nearest town to get falafel. And the only places you found it was at the corner street vendor who used to fry them pretty much to order. Hot and fresh and oh.. the smell…not to mention the excitement of this adventure.
Fast forward to when I was a teenager and living in the Tel Aviv suburbs. On Saturday nights my friends and I would go into the city to a famous area called Shuk Hafalafel (The Falafel market). Here the entire street smelled of freshly fried falafel and the vendors filled an entire road. You would be asked if you wanted half a pita filled or a whole pita filled? With Israeli salad? sour pickled relish? tahini added? Hot sauce? Even french fries! All of the above, most would say. Me, just salad and tahini. Oh and a whole Pita, half wasn't enough.
Jerusalem is known for a fantastic falafel booth to this day called Melech Hafalafel (Falafel King). It has become a tourist attraction and many TV food shows include it in their segments.
Oh the memories… so let's get started with the recipe of how to make this unique and delightful dish. It is fairly simple really and so worth it.
This amount makes 2 batches, I freeze one batch of the mix in a large ziplock bag and I have it ready anytime I want to fry more falafel balls.
1 packet of dried chickpeas
1 packet of packet of fresh cilantro or parsley or a mix of both with sprigs cut off.
1 large onion cut into quarters
3 garlic cloves crushed
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
½-1 teaspoon black pepper according to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ cup room temperature water
Canola oil to cover approximately ½ to 3/4 of the depth of your frying pan. (I use a wide and deep type of frying pan)
The night before: In a large bowl put 1 packet of dried chickpeas to soak in water overnight with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda, water should be covering the chickpeas completely. Cover with saran wrap.
The day of cooking:
Drain the soaked chickpeas and rinse a little with cold water. In a food processor put the chickpeas, cilantro or/and parsley, crushed garlic, onion, cumin, salt, pepper and half the amount of water.
Process with pulses until mixture is fairly smooth. Not too coarse but not too watery, Open the lid of the processor to scrape down the sides a couple of times during the processing. Check the mix by taking out a little and forming a ball, it is ok if it is a little moist when you squeeze it. If it seems too dry and difficult to form a ball add a little more water. I often end up using the full amount of water.
You can make this mix the day before if you like or freeze it for up to about a month.
I use half for a fair amount of falafel balls and freeze the other half.
Transfer your mix from the food processor to a large bowl. Divide in half if not making it all now and put the rest in a zip lock to store in the freezer. Do not add the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder if you are freezing it. Add this before cooking the falafel balls only.
Add half the amount of the the bicarbonate of soda and half of the baking powder to your mix in the bowl and stir in well. Remember the full amount is for the entire mix but you are putting half aside. Unless you are making all of the mix then use the full amount of the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. These last 2 ingredients only go into the falafel mix just before you're ready to start frying. So if you're freezing half, don't add them, just remember to add those 2 ingredients before you fry next time. (half the amount that's listed in ingredients)
Heat oil in a wide deep dish type frying pan. I put in enough oil about 3/4 way up. If you use very little oil your falafel balls will burn quickly. I love using my small or medium sized ice cream/cookie scoop to make the balls. For years I shaped the balls by hand until I discovered this tool. It is the best way to form perfect balls and fry them. I have it listed in My Favorite Tools section. If you don't have one you can just use your hands to make balls.
Drop in one ball at a time into the medium hot oil. Fry for a couple minutes and turn over using 2 forks, that's the easiest way. As soon as it is brown take out and lay on plate covered with kitchen paper to absorb the oil. Don't crowd the pan. I put in about 7-8 balls in a very large pan. They cook really fast!
Serve in a pita slit in the middle, adding tahini and Israeli salad as the photo shows above the recipe or add anything you like. Also the falafel balls can be laid out on a platter for people to make their own sandwiches with all the sides in little plates and your guests can add whatever they chose.
That's all there is to it! Simple, fresh, hot and delicious!
See link below for full recipe to my Israeli salad!
This little magic tool comes in different sizes. I have one in small, medium and large. Other sizes are available but I find them redundant. I also use it for making cookies and energy bites. Recipes will follow.