There is a good measure of excitement when one decides: ” That’s it! today, let’s make homemade falafel” You will actually need plenty of enthusiasm for this project, because it is, shall we say it? time-consuming! So, set aside a couple of days and you will make falafel that you can be proud of!
Now, like most middle-eastern dishes, it can be accomplished in stages. In the Arab world, most people defer to the notion that falafel is Egyptian in origin ( where it is called ta’amiyah) . No argument there. In Lebanon, it is as popular as shawarma. In fact, it is part of the street food scene and you will find that each neighborhood in Beirut offers many options for consuming a fresh falafel. Of course, every Beiruti you talk to will assure you that the falafel joint in his neighborhood is the best in town.
I have used a recipe from The Arab Table, by May S. Bsisu
INGREDIENTS: This quantity will produce 25 falafels, enough for 6 to 8 people. It can be doubled.
- 1/2 pound (8 ounces or 250g) dried split fava beans (you want to get the yellow, peeled dried fava beans)
- 4 ounces dried garbanzo beans
- 1 tablespoon of mashed garlic (mash with one tablespoon of salt)
- 1 medium onion (about 5 ounces), chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, sliced thin or substitute with a couple of green onions
- 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, leaves chopped
- 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, leaves chopped
- SPICES: 1 teaspoon ground coriander, allspice, cumin and a pinch of cayenne, cinnamon and black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 cup of sesame seeds
- 4 cups of vegetable oil (for frying)
Making the Falafels:
First step: To be done ahead by several hours, days, or weeks.
- Toast the sesame seeds, if using, either on a small skillet for a few minutes watching them constantly, or in a slow oven (about 275F) till golden.
- Cool the sesame seeds and store them in a small plastic bag in the refrigerator until needed.
- Measure the dry spices and mix them in a small container. Cover and keep in a cupboard until needed.
Second step: To be done 12 hours before or up to 18 hours beforehand.
- Rinse the fava beans and the garbanzo beans carefully, watching for small stones or debris.
- Place the beans in a large bowl and cover them with water by at least one inch. Let them sit undisturbed overnight.
Third step: To be done 4 to 6 hours or longer before the actual cooking.
- Drain the beans and spread them on a cookie sheet. At this stage, you will want to dry them as much as possible. You can, for instance, grab a clean kitchen towel and lovingly dry them one bean at a time. You can also place them outside in the heat, cover them in plastic sheeting and retrieve them a few hours later. You can place them in a warm oven and let them dry out at their own pace. The end result is that the beans need to be dry. Period.
- Prepare the fresh spices: wash the leek carefully (it tends to lodge dirt in-between its leaves) and chop, wash the cilantro and dry and then chop the leaves, do the same simultaneously with the parsley, chop the onion. Store in a bowl in the refrigerator.
Fourth step: To be done 3 hours before the cooking.
- Grind the bean mixture in a meat grinder twice, incorporating all the fresh spices. It is also possible to use a heavy-duty food processor. The mixture should have a doughy consistency.
- Add the dry spice mix and mix thoroughly either by hand or in the processor.
- Set the mixture aside, covered.
Fifth step: To be done right before frying.
- Add to the dough the baking soda and baking powder. This will help ensure that the falafel are nice and fluffy.
- Slice the tomatoes and onions and place them in a serving dish, alongside pickles and fresh herbs such as parsley or mint, if you like.
- Prepare the pita bread by cutting it in halves with kitchen scissors and putting them back in the bag (so they don’t dry out)
Frying time: To be done 20 minutes ahead.
- Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or a large pot and if you have a thermometer, let it get to 375F, otherwise wait 15 minutes and check by dropping a small piece of bread in the oil. If it starts sizzling, it is ready.
- Retrieve the sesame seeds and place them in a bowl. Get two cookie sheets, cover them in foil and paper towels.
- Start forming the falafel, either by hand, with a large cookie scoop or using a falafel mould.
- Place the balls in rows on the cookie sheet and start dipping them in sesame seeds.
- Fry the balls until they are brown all over and remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on the next cookie sheet to collect all the extra frying oil. This takes 5 minutes or so.
- When all are done, place them in a bowl and serve.
If you want your falafel to look perfect and even in size, there is a small implement that is usually available in middle-eastern groceries called ‘aaleb al-falafel. It consists of placing the dough in it, and pushing it out into the pan.