Falafels are the kind of food I struggled with. I love them when I get them in restaurants (etc.), but I hated every single batch I ever made at home. They would taste weird, either with a strange metallic taste or uncooked garlic flavor, and I could never get them to be cooked through and nicely crunchy.
One reason for this that I am very much aware of is that most restaurants deep fry their falafels. That’s fair enough for them, but I’m not a deep frying sort of person. So, I started experimenting to see what can be done to recreate the great falafel taste without too much extra oil. (I did tried baking and broiling, and oil free but could not get those to work – so oil is in!)
My first issue was with chickpeas. Although you can use canned or chickpea flour, for authentic flavor you do need to start with raw chickpeas. And that was a part of my problem – no matter what I did, there was always something a bit unappetizing with the flavor. One explanation for why deep fried falafels don’t suffer from this shortcoming is that deep frying actually cooks everything through to a high temperature while most of other methods leave things a bit underdone.
So I came up with a solution that made a huge difference. After soaking the dry chickpeas for about a day, rinsing them and changing the water once half way through, I rinse them, dry them in a kitchen towel and then pan-toast them. What I do is place a large non-stick pan over high heat, make it quite hot, then add the chickpeas and let them toast so that they are browned but not burned. You can also try roasting but that may take longer. Pan-toasting takes about 5 minutes, and at the end you have chickpeas that are lightly cooked, enriched with flavor, and with most of that metallic tang removed. One problem solved!
Second problem is garlic. Again, I would end up with falafels with raw garlic flavor, probably for the same reason – without deep frying the inside does not have time to cook through. So, I decided to dial down the amount and use just a bit of garlic powder instead of raw garlic.
The rest is all about mixing everything together and adding a binder, in this case some flax “egg” – that’s flax meal that has been soaked in hot water for a while. I also recommend letting the falafel mixture rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before frying.
And now we come to frying – there’s just no other way to make these come out awesome. So, use some oil, real oil not a cooking spray – in my case using just enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan was enough – and let the “fried” falafels rest on some paper towel to soak the excess grease.
Eat these falafels while they are fresh and crunchy. Leftovers will be fine but there’s nothing better than a fresh batch.
Basic Falafels with Pan-Toasted Chickpeas
What you’ll need:
- 1 lbs chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours, drained, rinsed oat dried and pan toasted
- 1/4 cup flax meal
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1 cup parsley flat leaf
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Oil for frying
What you’ll do:
- Soak dry chickpeas in 8-10 cups of water (they need to be fully submerged with about an inch (2.5 cm) of water above the chickpea layer. I recommend soaking for 12 hours, changing the water, then soaking for another 12 hours for a total of 1 day. I also suggest you do this at room temperature on your kitchen counter.
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas and shake of excess water.
- Bring a large non-stick pan over high heat. Once the bottom of the pan is hot, pour in the chickpeas and let them toast until they get dry and fairly browned. This will take about 5-8 minutes and you will need to stay next to the pan to mix the chickpeas frequently and prevent burning.
- Pour the toasted chickpeas into the food processor, and let them cool for 15-20 minutes.
- While chickpeas are cooling, make the flax egg by soaking the flax meal in 3/4 cup hot water. Mix really well to fully combine flax meal and hot water and leave for 15 minutes. The mixture will become dense and gel-like.
- Add parsley, lemon juice and the spices to chickpeas and process until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
- Add the flax egg and process for another minute or so.
- Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes, until chickpeas are completely cool and the mix has had time to settle and combine.
- Bring your favorite frying pan (or a cast iron pan) over medium high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom well. Using your hands, form falafels and fry them in the hot oil. These will take 3-5 minutes per side, with the second side usually taking a bit less time to brown. Don’t over-crowd the pan as you do need some space to maneuver the falafels, so be ready to fry them in batches, adding extra oil as needed.
- Let the fried falafels rest on some paper towels, which will help absorb any excess oil.
- Serve fresh and hot!
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