The word falafel refers to chickpea croquettes. Sounds very simple, right? The reality is very different. Falafel is a dish loaded with a lot of history and traditions. These croquettes were invented more than 2,000 years ago. And this can be said for sure because there are references to this dish in the Bible.
Gastronomy is more than the perfect combination of ingredients to obtain good dishes. It is about knowing the history, customs, and ancestral techniques that our ancestors used to prepare these recipes, and make them last until today. Although falafel is very old, it is still enjoyed today, with many changes according to the taste of each person.
Although who its creators where are unknown, there are several versions of falafel. The most common are made from chickpeas, or beans, even both.
Types of Falafel
- Indian Falafel: India is the largest chickpea producer in the world, with an approximate production volume of 8 million tons per year. Naturally, a lot of chickpeas are consumed throughout India, as in addition to being an important source of plant protein, they are very cheap. As you might imagine, Indian falafel is made only with chickpeas.
- In Egypt, broad beans are used (instead of chickpeas). The beans are hydrated and then ground to make these delicious croquettes, known in Egypt as "ta'amiya".
- Israeli falafel, made from chickpeas like the Indian one, is so beloved that it even has a song. It is important to note that thanks to Israeli migrants, the delicious recipe achieved world fame. Although Turkish and Kurdish migrants also spread it throughout Europe.
Some modern variations of Falafel
- Lentils. For the culture of the Middle East, legumes are essential. So you could use lentils to make falafel instead of chickpeas. For this preparation, the main ingredient will be lentils. As with chickpeas, be sure to soak them for 24 hours in plenty of water. When they are soft, use absorbent paper to remove the excess water and then follow the steps of traditional falafel.
- Meat. If you love meat, you could use minced meat according to your taste. Substitute a cup of raw minced beef for a cup of chickpeas, and continue with the preparation indicated in the recipe.
- Baking. A healthier option is to roast the falafels in the oven, instead of frying them. For this, you must follow the recipe that you have chosen for the falafels, and instead of frying them, you must place them on a metal tray, covered with absorbent paper, and bake them for 20 to 30 minutes until they are golden brown. Remember to turn them so they cook evenly.
On this occasion, we will make the traditional vegetarian falafel. In a future post, we will make the meat falafel.
Mediterranean / Appetizer
Recipe to make the typical chickpea falafels, variations of the falafel
recipe in various countries, and more modern
3 cups chickpeas
6 cups of water
1 white onion, chopped into small squares
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 tablespoons cashew nuts, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons of flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1 cup of oil for frying
The night before preparing the falafels, place the chickpeas to soak in the six cups of water. Leave them overnight until they are hydrated (you can soak them for up to 48 hours, but after ten hours. It is convenient to put them in the fridge). Once this time has passed, drain the excess water, and dry them with a kitchen towel.
Place the chickpeas and cashews in the food processor and blend until they become a smooth paste. If you are preparing it with a blender, turn it on with the lid on, but removing the other small one to add the ingredients little by little. Process the chickpeas and vegetables into three parts. With each part, remove the mixture from the glass and place it in a bowl. Followed by the other part of the chickpeas. You can do this process two times, depending on the power of the blender.
Then combine the chickpeas with the chopped onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, and salt.
To the processed mixture, add the baking powder and flour, mix well. Put a lid on the bowl, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
After the mixture has set, try to form the croquettes without breaking them. If necessary, add one more tablespoon of wheat flour. Form approximately 24 croquettes, they are shaped like a small pancake.
Place the oil in a skillet-pan, and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the croquettes, and fry on both sides.
Remove the falafels from the oil, and let them rest for a few minutes on a plate lined with absorbent paper to remove excess oil. Serve with a yogurt sauce and enjoy.