In September 2016, I travelled all the way to Paris for falafel. We may have ticked off a few touristy things too whilst there but we did also have a game-changing falafel.
This particular falafel day was so special. In my first cookbook, I wrote a dedication page to our three daughters. In one of the lines, I wrote: “I hope you get to Paris together one day like you talk about now.” Well…….two years after writing those words, there we were……in Paris altogether. To see our girls faces as they first took in the Eiffel tower this day was breathtaking, as were the stunning views of Paris once we climbed to the top. Here is a photo of Ettie and me at the top. We had to resort to taking a selfie as three out of five of our gang are rather petrified of heights and there was not a chance they were hanging out with us out there on the edge. They did climb to the top…. sweaty palms and all. I was so proud of their efforts. You can read more about this European adventure in this post here
What can top a morning like that………not much really but it was celebrated at L’as du fallafel in the Jewish quarter of Le Marais neighbourhood in Paris. We had been warned about the queues but they weren’t too bad and it was pretty cool to have the gift of time on our side and so it was quite lovely to stand and watch the world go by.
I am pleased to report, the small wait was so worth it. The falafel took us to further happy places. A falafel really is a culinary treat. They are a vegetarian healthy ball of goodness that both carnivores and vegetarians adore. All hail the falafel!
One does not have to travel to the Middle East to enjoy the falafel in all it’s glory and nor Paris, as it turns out. Falafels are actually super easy to make at home by following a few essential tips.
As one of the main worries and complaints about homemade falafel is the problem of falafels that either lose their shape or break into pieces during cooking.
A few things to remember:
Do NOT use canned chickpeas for homemade falafels. To make perfect falafel, start with quality dried chickpeas, soak them overnight, drain, process in a food processor and shape into falafel balls. I will admit to using tinned chickpeas for quick mid-week falafels from time to time but they do have a tendency to fall apart and make you just a little bit crankier than you should feel when cooking a simple dish at home. You use the rehydrated chickpeas as is. There is no cooking the chickpeas. They’ll hydrate overnight and once processed properly, they’ll cook beautifully in the oil all while retaining their shape and texture.
300 grams chickpeas, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped or crushed with a garlic crusher
A small handful of both parsley and mint – leaves and stems and all, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, zest of
Oil for frying
To serve :
Pitta – homemade or store-bought
Hummus or beetroot hummus
Put chickpeas in a bowl, cover with plenty of water and leave to soak overnight. Drain in a colander.
To make the falafel, use a food processor and blitz the onion, garlic and herbs until finely chopped. Add the spices and bicarbonate of soda and sea salt and pepper as well as the lemon zest. Scoop into a bowl and set aside. Blitz the chickpeas to a coarse texture similar to couscous, Add the herb mixture back in and blitz. if the paste seems dry and crumbly, add just a little water and process some more. Place in the fridge whilst you make your cucumber yoghurt.
Using a scoop, shape falafel mixture into 16-20 portions (about a meatball’s worth) and squeeze it into the shape of a ball using your hands. It should come together with some force and retain its shape.
If mixture seems too wet, add a little flour, let sit for a few minutes and try again. If on the other hand, it seems too dry try processing a little more and maybe adding a little water.
Heat oil for deep frying in a pan or deep fryer to 180oC and fry the falafels no more than six at a time for about 3-4 minutes per batch or until golden brown and delicious on all surfaces.
Leave falafel to drain for about a minute on some paper towel.
Serve with pitta along with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber yoghurt.
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon caster sugar
250ml (1 cup) natural yoghurt
3 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
Peel the cucumber and coarsely grate it. Take a handful and squeeze out the excess juice over a sink; transfer to a bowl.
Season with the salt and sugar then stir in the yoghurt and mint. Cover and keep in fridge until needed.
½ qty hummus
1-2 beetroots (your choice how intense you would like it)
Make hummus as per recipe here or your own favourite hummus recipe.
Roast off a beetroot or two. Peel away the beetroot skins, using food-safe gloves. Add the beetroot and some of the hummus to a food processor. You may need a little of the cooking liquid to ensure you have a smooth and velvety beetroot hummus.