Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A new falafel

Some foods seem to respond well to tinkering with tradition, others yield an end result which tells the maker not to have bothered. Not only this, but if one does move a food away from its traditional context and list of ingredients then they face the wrath of the food puritans.
I have eaten falafel since I was a kid, but a couple of days ago it dawned on me that I had never eaten anything other than traditional falafel. I had a browse through my grain cupboard and picked out a few things I thought may work, and then got soaking. The result was interesting. It had a new dimension of flavour and texture and, in my opinion, from now on replaces traditional falafel made in my house.

Kidney bean and polenta falafel
Serves 3 to 4, depending on accompaniments

- polenta, 4 tbsp
- flour, 1-2 tbsp (plain white, or any of your choosing - in the photo above I used wholegrain spelt)
- red kidney beans, dried, 60g (or half a tin)
- chickpeas, dried, 75g
- ground coriander, tsp
- ground cumin, heaped tsp
- za'atar, tsp (optional)
- medium onion, roughly chopped
- garlic, large cloves, 2
- parsley, roughly chopped, handful
- a dried chilli
- oil for frying 

If using dried beans, soak overnight. Drain and refresh with fresh water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for roughly one hour. Drain and set aside to cool.
Place the chickpeas, onion, garlic and chilli in a food processor and blitz into a purée. Add the cooled beans and the parsley and blitz into a rough mixture. Tip the mixture into a large bowl and mix in the polenta, ground coriander, cumin and za'atar. Add the flour and mix until the the mixture feels quite stiff and can be formed into a ball (adding more flour if necessary). Push down with the back of a spoon and place in a fridge for at least a couple of hours (if you wish to make the next night's dinner relatively quick, you can leave the mix in the fridge overnight).
Pour the oil into a frying pan until it covers around 5cm. Heat to 180 degrees celsius (around the point where a small cube of bread turns golden in around 30 seconds). Scoop out enough falafel mix to make golf ball size nuggets then flatten them slightly in your hands. In batches, add them to the oil and fry until golden and crisp, placing on kitchen paper to dry when done.
We ate them with heritage flour flat breads, a bowl of freshly whipped-up harissa hummus (useful to add an extra handful of chickpeas to the bean cooking process above to make some hummus as well) and a pumpkin seed oil dressed salad, wrapped up into juicy, crisp wraps.

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