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Falafel recipe from the Middle East

03 DECEMBER 2014
Falafels have been around for so long, nobody can be sure of their origin, though many cultures lay claim to them. Arguments flair up about ownership – the Coptic Christians of Egypt declare them theirs, though they call them by a different name, tamia, and make them with fava beans. In lebanon, Syria and Jordan the recipe changes to half fava, half chick pea; in Israel they add bulghur wheat. This particular recipe is how they’re made in Palestine, and while migrant Palestinians may well have taught the whole Middle East how to make falafels, what does it really matter? "Falafels make superb party food, as a canapé with a dipping sauce. I prefer small, round, bite-size falafel to the larger saucer-shaped ones, because you get more crisp surface area, which is the best bit. Typically they are formed with a shaping apparatus called 'aleb falafe' which pops out uniform shapes into hot oil, then they're served in pita bread with various vegetables and sauces" -Celia Brooks

Makes 60 small or 30 large, serves 6-8


375g dried chickpeas
12 long stems of parsley, 40g approx, well washed and dried, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, degermed
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp baking powder
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for deep frying

To serve:

Warm thin pita or khobez bread
Chilli sauce
Mixed salad


1. Place the chickpeas in a very large bowl and pour cold water over them, enough to cover. Leave to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

2. Drain the chickpeas thoroughly and place in a Kenwood food processor. Add parsley, garlic, onion and spices and process on a high speed. You will probably have to keep scraping down the sides to get it evenly pureed. Add up to 3 tbsp water if necessary to turn the whole thing into a smooth but fairly solid mass. Finally, mix in the baking powder.

3. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

4. Heat a 2.5-5cm/1-2 inch depth of oil in a heavy pan. Unless you own a falafel maker, use your hands to form firmly packed balls. It may help to keep moistening your hands with water. I prefer balls the size of large cherries. Or you can make them double the size and flatten slightly. If you like, they can be refrigerated or frozen now for later use.

5. As with most fried foods, falafels are best eaten straight after frying, so be ready with your accompaniments. Test the oil—a pinch of the mixture should sizzle immediately but not violently. A small cube of bread should brown in 20-30 seconds. Fry several falafels at a time until golden all over, and then drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately, alone or stuffed into bread with the suggested accompaniments above.