Falafel

I spend many sweaty hours through late spring and summer blanching then freezing excess veg from my orto. After which I have a terrible habit of forgetting they’re there. So when broad (fava) bean time comes around – favas always being the very first crop to burst out of nowhere – and I suddenly realise that last year’s yield is still cluttering up the freezer, I need immediate clean-out solutions.

Falafel isn’t a quick thing to make: nothing is if you’re using fresh (as opposed to dried) beans which need to be popped one by one out of their waxy shells. But if you can clear some time for bean-skinning and make a large quantity of these delicious snacks all at once, then you can stick the leftovers in the freezer… then try to remember not to forget those too!

If your freezer is more rationalised than mine and you have no glut, you can make these patties with fresh broad beans or dried. The former should be removed from their pods, then steamed very briefly – a couple of minutes will do – in order to loosen the shells which can then be removed (relatively) easily. Dried beans should be covered with abundant water, brought to the boil, left to sit overnight until they are ready for use but not soggy and then drained very well before using.

Broad (fava) beans – 500 g shelled weight
Onion – 1 medium
Garlic – 2 cloves
Plain flour – 1 tbsp
Baking soda – pinch
Coriander
Parsley
Chili

Chop the onion and garlic finely, and place them in a goblet where they can be blitzed with a hand blender. Finely mince the coriander (if you’re using fresh, which is best; otherwise add a teaspoon of seeds before blitzing) and parsley and add them to the goblet. How much of these herbs you use depends on how much you like them. I chop sufficient to make a generous tablespoon of each. The same goes for the chili: you don’t have to use it at all, but I prefer to add a good lump to give the patties extra bite.

Don’t add water; don’t add oil. Just whizz the lot up until you have a very smooth, beautifully green paste. The paste should be not at all runny: in fact, it may be so dry that your blender objects to pounding it. But persevere until all is smooth.

When the paste is ready, turn it into a mixing bowl and beat in a tablespoon of flour and a pinch of baking powder.

The traditional way of cooking falafel is to form chunky disks of about three-four centimetres across and drop them into a saucepan full of boiling oil until they are uniformly brown. You could opt for this method. But I don’t like deep-fried food. Instead, I put a tiny quantity of oil into a heavy-bottomed non-stick frying pan (I always use a ceramic one) and I fry my disks in there, turning them a couple of times. When they’re nicely browned, I slide them out on to a plate covered with kitchen towel.

These quantities should make about 30 patties.

Falafel make great antipasto finger food; they can be eaten with hummous and salad ingredients and babaganoush inside a split pitta bread in the traditional Arab way; or they can constitute a major, protein- and mineral-packed element in a non-meat meal. In all cases, it’s better if served piping hot.

© Anne Hanley, 2012

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About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden designer, working throughout central Italy. I have lived in Italy for over 30 years – for many years in Rome but now in the wilds of Umbria where I have fixed up one wreck of a house, am working on another, and tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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