Falafel is a Middle Eastern food item made by frying small patties or balls of ground chickpeas as the main ingredient. The Egyptian version of falafel uses ground fava beans instead, is called tamiya or ta’amiya, and it has been claimed that this is the original version. Regardless, these heavenly morsels of leguminous goodness have been eaten for centuries and today, throughout the world, are a popular snack that also serve as a complete meal.
Falafel or ta’amiya is delicious, cheap and easy-to-prepare at home and requires no specialist ingredient or skill. Best of all, you can deviate from and play around with any standard or traditional recipe to maximise nutritional content, to make use of what you already have in your pantry or garden, as well as to explore different flavour combinations.
Here is our Aussie bushtucker superfood version. It takes advantage of the fact that legumes and rice together provide all the essential amino acids required by the human body and is therefore ideal tucker for vegetarians and vegans. We use both chickpeas and fava beans and throw in some extra greens for even more nourishment.
Before we get to the recipe, did you know fava beans are also one of the easiest plants for the home veggie patch? Unlike beans or peas that need staking or a trellis to grow on, fava beans when grown in a bunch provide structural support to each other. They are low maintenance, have attractive flowers, and fix nitrogen in the soil so the next crop to go in the same patch of earth will benefit. Here’s our backyard veggie patch from several weeks ago with fava beans in bloom. Spring time in temperate regions of Australia is the perfect time to harvest the fat green pods, each of which may contain up to 8 large seeds. The earlier you harvest the pods the greener and more tender the resultant beans.
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1 cup dried fava beans (also called broad beans), soaked overnight and drained
1 cup fresh fava beans, skin removed
1/2 cup brown rice
1 onion (brown, red or white… any onion will do)
4 cloves garlic
1 handful of fresh parsley
1 handful of fresh coriander (some call it cilantro)
1 handful of Warrigal greens for a uniquely Aussie slant or spinach will do just as well
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon baking soda/bi-carb soda
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for pan-frying
You need a food processor, blender or mixer with metal blades for best results. A mortar and pestle is hard work!
1. First, if your soaked fava beans have their skin on, peel these off and discard. Then, blend chickpeas and fava beans in your machine until you get a medium-fine crumbly mix. You don’t want to go overboard so that the mix becomes a paste… we’re not making hummus here. When done place contents in a large bowl.
2. Grind brown rice until you achieve a fine powdery result. Add this flour to large bowl.
3. Blend garlic, onion and all the fresh greens together until broken down. Add to large bowl.
4. Next, blend the dry herbs and spices until they are broken down. You don’t want to bite into a whole peppercorn or coriander seed in your falafel so blitz until desired particle size is achieved. Add to other ingredients in large bowl. Occasionally during blending (whether chickpeas/fava beans, greens or spices) you might need to scrape down the sides of the machine with a spoon to get everything ground up to a nice consistency.
5. Add remaining ingredients (bi-carb soda, salt) to large bowl and mix everything together with a spoon.
6. With your hands, make little patties or flattened balls using a tablespoon to measure quantity as well as to help create the starting shape of the patties.
7. In a saucepan, heat up extra virgin olive oil to medium-high temperature. Gently slide patties of falafel mix into oil, fry each side for 2-3 minutes until the outside acquires of nice brown colour.
8. Remove cooked falafel with slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper napkins to absorb excess oil.
9. Cool for a few minutes and then serve with your favourite condiments or eat in a sleeve of pita bread with salad.
1. Your falafel mix should not be too wet and not too dry. Too dry and your patties will fall apart before they hit the oil. Too wet and your uncooked falafel mix will be sticky and gluey and the cooked result heavy and doughy inside. Add more brown rice flour if too wet, add more greens (you can’t ever have too much!) if too dry. Aim for a result that gives you a lovely crunchy crispy shell on the outside with the insides moist and fluffy.
2. Warringal greens contain oxalates so par-boiling before use is best. Shake off water or dry with paper napkins before blending in machine.
3. A slightly flattened patty is the best shape to aim for if you want to minimise your use of oil for frying. Place enough falafel patties in your saucepan so that the olive oil almost completely covers your patties.
4. Falafel are best served and eaten immediately, cook what you need and save leftover falafel mix for the next day, the mix should keep well in the fridge for a few days.
5. Before frying, you can roll your patties in Macadamia nut crumbs and/or toasted and ground wattle seeds to take this to a higher level of Aussie uniqueness – your guests will surely be impressed at your next dinner party.