Crispy falafels

Crunchy and brown on the outside, soft and green on the inside – that’s how I like my falafel. And they’re surprisingly simple to make, so quit your excuses, and get falafeling!

Falafels are great party fare, but I like them best as part of a Middle Eastern feast, with baba ganoush, Lebanese cauliflower, fasolia and tabbouli, accompanied with a generous chunk of piping hot flatbread.

All-important amateur tip: Serve these fresh and piping hot for best reactions from dinner guests, and don’t refrigerate the mixture before cooking, even if you need to make it in advance (leave it in a bowl covered with a moist towel if you need to make it in advance), as this will make your falafels dense and claggy, not the light, crispy clouds of joy they’re supposed to be 😉

Here’s how to put that satisfying crunch into your perfect falafels…

Flavour: Savoury & slightly spiced

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish or 8-12 as party nibbles

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups chickpeas – soaked, but not cooked
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (don’t just toss the stems – these are good too)
  • Generous grind of black pepper – to taste
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons besan (chickpea) flour – this adds a great crunch
  • Masa harina or polenta for rolling falafels before frying

Optional extras/substitutes:

  • Small bunch of coarsely chopped coriander, if you like it
  • Half a teaspoon of lemon zest
  • You could swap out some of the chickpeas for brown lentils if you like, but make sure these are well drained after soaking, or they’ll make your mixture claggy

Directions:

  1. Toss all your ingredients (except the masa harina/polenta) into the food processor (not blender), and blend until you have a slightly crumbly looking mixture that holds together easily when you roll a handful of it into a ball (do test this if it’s your first time, as you may need to blend it a little more) – don’t overblend it because you’ll end up with a paste, and that won’t give you a nice light-but-crispy falafel
  2. Transfer your mixture into a bowl, and form either balls or patties with your mixture, one small handful at a time (I make them quite small, because that way my guests get to eat a few of these with an assortment of dips and sides, and that makes them happy 🙂 )
  3. Transfer each falafel as you make it to a plate covered with a generous layer of masa harina/polenta; once you’ve run out of mixture, you can gently roll your falafels to get them thoroughly coated in the fine crumb
  4. Heat up a shallow frying pan with a generous slug of olive oil (we’re shallow-frying here, not deep-frying ok?!), and once it’s sizzling hot, plop in one of your falafels as a tester – if it cooks quickly and comes out crispy, then your oil is hot enough to cook a whole batch; if not, it needs to be hotter
  5. Your falafels will be easier to cook if you’ve made patties, as you only need to turn them once to get them brown and crispy on both sides; if you’re making falafel balls, you’ll need to shake the pan ever so often to turn them, and do it gently so you don’t break them – cook your falafels in small batches (whatever fits in your pan with plenty of room for manoeuvre)
  6. Drain your falafels on kitchen paper to sop up any excess oil, and serve them immediately, piping hot – they should be crispy-crunchy on the outside, with a soft crumb on the inside – light, not dense, and insanely moreish 😛
    • Amateur tip: if you’re making falafels as an accompaniment to a meal with lots of elements, be sure to cook the falafels at the last minute, even if you make the mixture in advance – and don’t refrigerate your mixture (you can leave it in a bowl on the counter, covered with a moist towel) as it will go sticky and will turn out too dense!
NB: This is the second not-technically-low-tech recipe I’ve posted, as it makes use of  food processor, so, a wee bit off the usual track there… I hope it’s worth it! 😀 

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