BBC Good Food Magazine
Cookbook challenge: falafel,
Editor Keith Kendrick satisfies a craving for his favourite street food
Of all the food experiences I have missed in the last year, one stands out: my regular trip to a falafel stall on the edge of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Market. It sold the greatest falafels I’ve ever tasted: crisp and crunchy on the outside, succumbing to a fluffy interior, bright green with parsley and coriander. Fresh from the fryer, I had them wrapped in flatbreads, bulging with hummus, onions, pickles and sauces.
Several times, during lockdowns, I tried to recreate the experience at home – and failed, my efforts crumbling to mush in the oil. And then Sumac, the gorgeous new cookbook from Anas Atassi, came to my attention. Anas shares recipes (his mother’s) and stories from his homeland in Syria.
Dishes include a take on the famous kibbeh hamoud (bulgur & meat croquettes in a sour tomatopomegranate sauce); red bulgur bi jara (bulgur with roast chicken); and kaak (cookies with a sesameaniseed glaze). And, of course, many dishes using the tart, deep-red spice, sumac, made from dried berries.
But my eye settled on Anas’s recipe for falafel, something that ‘Syrians never make at home’ because of the abundance of falafel joints. However, Anas adds, ‘Nowadays, though, I do make my own falafel, to capture the taste of Syria.’ The key is to use dried chickpeas, soaked overnight. Pulse them in a blender with the rest of the ingredients and the result is a mixture that comes together, still has texture, and has a wonderfully fresh flavour. Totally stunning and a great substitute until I can return to my favourite falafel stall.
TRY IT YOURSELF
MAKES 30–35 PREP 20 mins plus overnight soaking and chilling COOK 20-25 mins EASY V 200g dried chickpeas
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch of coriander
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters 3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chilli
1/2 tsp ground cumin
30ml olive oil
25g sesame seeds vegetable oil, for frying
1 Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight, for at least 12 hours. The chickpeas should swell to twice their size and feel soft. Drain and rinse.
2 Tip the soaked chickpeas into a food processor with the parsley, coriander (stems included), onion, garlic, chilli, cumin, olive oil and some salt and pepper, and pulse for about 2 mins. The mixture should be well blended, but not too smooth. 3 Form small balls measuring about 3cm in diameter. Sprinkle them lightly with sesame seeds then, using your fingertips, gently press the seeds into the falafel. Chill the falafel for 30 mins.
4 Line a large bowl or baking tray with kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a large pan to 180C. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, test-fry a falafel ball to see if the oil is hot enough. Deep-fry a few falafel at a time to keep from overcrowding the pan. Fry for 5-6 mins, or until brown and cooked completely, then scoop out of the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
GOOD TO KNOW vegan • gluten free
PER FALAFEL 54 kcals • fat 4g • saturates 0.4g •
carbs 2g • sugars 0.4g • fibre 1g • protein 1g • salt none