Before Sushi took rank 1 as my favourite food in my late twenties, it was undeniably falafel – and still is, actually. Especially since it is a bit easier to replicate at home than sushi! I love, love, loooooove falafel! Have I mentioned that I am in love with falafel? It is just one of those dishes that makes you think “who the eff needs meat”? Don’t get me wrong, I love meat! But falafel makes lving without a lot easier since it is just so delicious! To me, it is the perfect summer dish with fresh salad, a crispy gluten free pita, homemade hummus, and a glass of dry and ice-cold white wine. Falafel is also very good for you! Chickpeas provide protein, fibre, manganese, iron, and complex carbs, making you feel full for a long time! Chickpeas are also naturally low in fat, so one more reason to dig into those falafels – provided you don’t eat the conventional deep-fried version, which nullifies all the health benefits of the falafels.
Since I adore falafel but don’t believe in deep-frying (especially not deep-fried in recycled trans-fats, yikes!), I wanted to come up with a way to have them oven-baked, not fried. I am happy to announce that it worked! Falafel is naturally meant to be a rather dry dish, so in my view, it doesn’t really matter that the baked falafels might be a little bit drier than the store-bought ones. I think they are just as yummy, and if them being low-fat means that I can have more, I don’t complain either! I prefer not to use any oils besides olive oil and coconut oil; however, olive oil is not suitable for deep-frying, and neither is coconut oil, plus its flavour simply doesn’t work in middle eastern cuisine. So that’s why my falafels are baked!
Another issue is that falafel in a snackbar are most of the time glutenated as they contain wheat flour – a big, big no-no! So that’s why my falafel has chickpea flour, which makes a whole lot more sense as it improves the flavour a lot and naturally enhances the chickpea aroma. One more thing, please do not waste your money on those ready falafel mixes – there is nothing wrong with them per se, but they are basically just chickpea flour with a bit of salt and spices in them. They are chickpea pancakes and have absolutely nothing to do with falafel, no matter what the package says, and they are far too overpriced for what you get. If you want quick and instant falafel-style patties, just mix some chickpea (besan, garbanzo) flour with hot water, lemon juice, salt, and parsley and fry it, which makes for a filling and quick dish, but is simply not falafel! Again, you can make “falafel” patties by buying your own chickpea flour instead of expensive “falafel” mixes!
Which takes me to the second point – even though falafel is relatively easy to make, you have to start one day before you eat them – that’s because you need to soak dried chickpeas over night. Yes, you read right, unlike hummus for which we use canned chickpeas, falafel requires the dried chickpeas, which are half the size of the canned ones. Believe me – don’t try this recipe with canned chickpeas. I don’t say that it’s not delicious, but it’s just not the same! You really need to use the dried chickpeas!
This recipe is adapted from the Shiksa in the Kitchen, but I obviously don’t deep-fry the falafels, since this is a recipe for baked falafel – duh! There is another superb recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem, which recommends using a meat grinder.
Makes 30 falafels
375 g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in a big bowl, covered in water twice their volume (or so that 5 cm water are above the chickpeas in the bowl)
1 onion, chopped (omit if low FODMAP)
1 garlic clove (omit if low FODMAP)
3 tbsp coriander, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, fresh, chopped
2 tbsp chickpea flour
1 tsp cumin
1,5 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
generous grind of black pepper
generous pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cardamom
1/2 tsp baking soda (optional)
Drain and rinse chickpeas well. Process with all ingredients bar the baking soda to a coarse paste. Do not overprocess it! Scrape the sides down while you are processing it. It should more look like couscous than a paste, but it must still hold together! Place in a big bowl and fluff with a fork to smash any chickpeas that are not processed. Chill mix for 1 hour before using. If you are using baking soda, use it right before baking. You can omit it, but the falafels do get fluffier with the soda.
Preheat the oven to 210 °C and line a baking tray with baking paper (or use a silicon sheet). With wet hands, shape balls or patties out of 2 heaped tablespoons of the falafel mix. Bake for 30 minutes in total, turning around half way through until lightly golden. Serve with gluten free pita, salad, hummus, and tzatziki.
Tip: It’s great to toss the falafels in a bit of sesame before baking!