Healthy falafel – herby, steam-fried and delicious! Great with whole grains, packed in a vegetarian sandwich or a veggie burger.
Now falafel is great, but deep-frying is not an everyday cooking technique for me. With falafel in particular, I feel like the chickpea mixture soaks up quite a lot of frying oil, no matter how I adjust the temperature. So today’s healthy falafel presents an alternative cooking method – very, very shallow steam-frying. All it takes is a frying pan, a thin film of oil and a lid and you’ve got yourself delicious, piping hot falafel with a lovely brown crust.
Throw on a couple of poached eggs and that’s brunch! Whole grain bulgur wheat is also an excellent serving suggestion.
It is very important that you use dried chickpeas for this recipe. Having seen my brother having a mini meltdown when his tinned chickpea falafel fell apart during frying, I can tell you – this is definitely something you want to avoid. I guess it’s because tinned chickpeas are cooked and falafel calls for soaked, but uncooked beans.
The fact that the chickpeas do not need to be cooked beforehand is a big plus on the preparation front. I always use dried beans in my dishes (cheaper, tastier, more natural), but let’s face it, soaking and boiling chickpeas is not an exciting kitchen task.
So, if you have a food processor, this homemade healthy falafel really is a no-fuss meal. But you do need a food processor. In my younger, less machine-equipped days, I have tried to blend chickpeas with both a liquidizer and a hand blender. Think burnt out motors and very unsatisfactorily blended chickpeas. I can’t even imagine how you would attempt to crush them by hand.
With a food processor, besides dicing an onion and roughly chopping a few herbs, you are literally just throwing all the ingredients in and blending.
Some people recommend baking falafel for a healthier option, and I have tried this, but I personally would not recommend it. In my experience, it takes longer, requires you to turn on an oven, doesn’t form a good crust and during the lengthy cooking time it dries out horribly. I have pulled a few batches of baked falafel out of my oven only to be rewarded with an unpleasantly dessicated dinner. Stick with steam frying I say.
This healthy falafel mixture lasts for AGES in the fridge (at least a week) – much longer than I was expecting and much, much longer than homemade hummus which seems to go off at the drop of a hat. You can also freeze it very successfully – I usually divide it into portions that will last me a couple of meals, then defrost it in the fridge the night before. For all these reasons, the yield for this recipe is fairly high – enough for a few meals.
Falafel is usually bound with flour, but in this recipe I have used ground flaxseed instead – both healthier (extra omega-3s) and gluten-free to boot. Falafel mixtures typically require resting before cooking, but I am happy to report that this recipe cooks beautifully right after mixing.
Despite the naysayers – I have had many people confused by the idea of eating falafel for breakfast – these tasty, protein-rich baked falafel morsels are filling and feel indulgent, while actually being fantastically nutritious.
- 500g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 20g or 2 heaped tablespoons ground flax seed
- 15g or 2 level tablespoons water
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 50g or 1 medium bunch fresh parsley leaves
- 30 or 1 big handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 1 teaspoon hot chilli flakes, or to taste
- 40 grinds black pepper, or to taste
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Combine the ground flax seed, lemon juice and water and set aside while you prepare the rest of the mixture.
- Add the chickpeas to your food processor. Crush the garlic, dice the onion, roughly chop the herbs and add them all to the machine with the lemon zest, chilli flakes, black pepper and sea salt. Blend until well combined, but still a little chunky - you will probably need to scrape down the sides a few times. Add the flax-lemon and mix until thoroughly distributed.
- When you are ready to cook the falafel, and one teaspoon of oil to a heavy bottomed frying pan (I used a cast iron skillet) and heat over medium heat until thoroughly hot. You want the pan to be hot enough to brown the bottom, but not burn it - definitely no more than medium heat. Shape the falafel into flatish patties (a flat shape will yield a better crust) and add to the pan. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is well crusted. Remove the falafel from the pan, add the last teaspoon of oil, flip the patties and return to the pan. Cover again and cook until both sides are nice and brown. Serve immediately.