I first came across falafels on a family trip to Syria (this was of course way before the Arab spring and the succeeding civil war). My uncle’s family were obsessed with eating grilled meats that were found in the tendrils of shisha smoke in cafes and restaurants that paved the beautiful city of Damascus. As a traveller, this was tiresome. It took time to find a cafe that could accomodate a large family, to translate the menu, debate which plates to order (as an Asian family, we usually order as a group for the table), wait for the chef to prepare the food; and this was all before we had even got the food. I preferred the portability of these small chickpea falafels wrapped in fresh Syrian bread. I loved the fact that they took only a few minutes to prepare and easy to take away from the street stall. What was the point of stopping in a restaurant when it would end with us all rushing out as one of the younger children had begun throwing a tantrum? On days where I thought I deserved a treat, I opted for the nutella filled crepes. These were freshly made on a grand tawva in the streets where passerbyers such as myself stood hypnotised by the swirling ladle evenly adding the crepe mixture. Since Syria, I can probably count on my hand the times that I have eaten a falafel. I will always choose it over most things on a menu but as someone that rarely eats out, eating falafels are still a rare occasion. Now with another government-imposed lockdown, it was time to experiment with making these little balls of goodness which dovetail nicely with my vegetarian diet.
I add zaatar to my falafels rather than mixing my own blend as buying the pack is quicker and convenient. Plus, zaatar smells so freaking good, I could never make a spice blend that tasty. I could straight up eat it as the only topping on some flatbread (as manaqish with zaatar is usually served). For those that do not know what zaatar is; it’s a blend of spices commonly used in the Arab world. It’s generally made out of dried thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, oregano, marjoram. The spices do vary a little depending on the region. I myself used palestinian zaatar as this is what my local store had in stock.
1 cup of dried chickpeas, 1 small onion, 1 large bunch of parsley, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of zaatar, 2 tablespoons of plain all purpose flour, juice of half a lemon
- Remember to soak the chickpeas in a full bowl of water the night before, you should at least let them rest for 10-24 hours.
- Drain the chickpeas and add to a blender with the onion, parsley, zaatar, salt, pepper, lemon. Pulse until evenly blended and then add the mixture into a bowl. Add the flour and put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
- Use your hand to form small balls. You can add one or two tablespoons of water if the mixture is too dry or add more flour if the mixture is too wet. The mixture should come together quite easily. I added about 2 more tablespoons of flour in my case to get them to a nice consistency which rolled into small balls without too much effort.
- To cook the falafels, you can either put them onto a baking sheet with some olive oil and into a preheated oven at 215 degrees celsius for 25-30 minutes or you can shallow fry them in some oil for around 3-5 minutes.