This Middle Eastern snack is also known as ta’amia. Falafel is a very popular food in the Arab East and is also very common in Isreal, where it is regarded as a national food. Although falafel is made from chickpeas over here, in Lebanon it is usually made from dried fava beans, with a handful of dried chickpeas sometimes thrown in. Favas have a wonderful flavour, but if you can't find them, dried white beans, such as cannellini or navy, can be substituted. Here we provide two falafel recipes, one with chickpeas, the other using fava beans.
Street vendors usually tuck falafel into pita bread with chopped lettuce and tomato and plenty of tahini sauce. .
Falafel Recipe 1
8 oz (225g) chick peas
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 slice of white bread, soaked in a little water
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. cumin, ground
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt, to taste
oil for frying
Soak the chick peas overnight.
Cover with plenty of fresh water and cook for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until tender.
Pound or blend the chick peas to a purée.
Squeeze out the bread and add to the chick peas together with the rest of the ingredients. Knead well for a few minutes.
Let the mixture rest for 1-2 hours, then roll between the palms into firm 1” balls. (Wetted hands make this easier).
Heat oil (at least 1 inch deep) in a pan to about 360° F, 180°C, and fry the balls, a few at a time, until nicely brown all over — about 2-3 minutes.
Drain and serve hot with lemon wedges.
Falafel Recipe 2
1 cup dried peeled fava beans (7 ounces), soaked overnight
3/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons water
Pure olive oil or canola oil, for frying
Drain and rinse the favas and chickpeas and put them in a food processor. Add the onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, baking powder, salt, cumin and crushed red pepper. Pulse, scraping down the side of the bowl, to form a coarse paste. Add the water and process until the mixture is gritty but fine and brilliant green. Scrape the paste into a bowl.
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees F. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the falafel mixture into the hot oil and fry in small batches until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels set over a wire rack and serve hot, with Tahini Sauce.
There is more than one way to stuff a pita with falafel. Hummus, if used, is typically spread on the pita along with any chili sauce. Falafel and salads are then added. Salads range from a simple tomato-and-cucumber mix to pickled eggplants. In Syria and Lebanon, the typical filling is tahini or hummus (or both), tomato, lettuce, cabbage, pickles and lemon slices. In Israel, Lebanon, and the UAE, french fries are a frequent addition.
Once the entire pita has been packed, tahini (possibly with lemon) or yoghurt sauces may be added. In Israel yogurt is a rare offering; more often seen is amba, a mango paste.
The salads or the pita itself may be seasoned with sumac or salt; alternatively, these may be applied to the top. In Syria, sumac is practically a universal accompaniment to falafel, whether in a sandwich or otherwise.