Ever since Bf-B and I started dating over 2 and 1/2 years ago, I’ve been hearing stories about how amazing his Dad’s felafel are. Bf-B’s dad was born in Egypt and moved here with his family when he was 9 to escape political persecution. His recipe for felafel is traditionally Egyptian, passed down to him from his mother. Egyptian felafel are different to your standard felafel as they are made with fava beans, rather than chickpeas giving them a unique texture.
After being promised for years that I would get to try some, last Saturday finally came the day we affectionately dubbed “Felafel Day”. Not only were we going to make a boatload of felafel, but also a bunch of side dishes for a complete meal: hummus, baba ghanouj, ful, rice & lentils and tomato & cucumber salad.
To make the felafel, we ground dried fava beans that had been soaking in water for 2 days, with fresh parsley, coriander and chives in the “fleischhacker” or meat grinder. Grinding the beans this way, rather than using a food processor, leads to a more even mix, though feel free to use a processor if you don’t own a meat grinder. It was a tedious process grinding the beans by hand, with Bf-B doing most of the hard work, but we were rewarded with a fine green mince that held together nicely and wasn’t too moist.
After grinding the beans and herbs, a bunch of spices and finely chopped onion were added for flavour. At this point, you can freeze the mix to have on hand. Otherwise, continue on by adding a few eggs to help bind the mixture together.
To cook the felafel, we used a special “felafel shaper” which you can get on Sydney Rd, Brunswick for about $5. It makes shaping the felafel a breeze as you can spoon the mixture into it and slide the felafels directly into the hot oil making the whole process a lot faster. If you can’t find one, you can roll the mix into balls using wet hands and drop them in the oil that way.
Along with the felafel, we made two traditional dips: hummus and baba ghanouj (eggplant dip). The hummus was very easy, and required only a food processor to process the ingredients into a fine paste. The trick with good hummus is to get the seasoning just right, so make sure you taste as you go, adding more salt or lemon juice as needed.
For the baba ghanouj, we roasted eggplants on the BBQ until very tender. Doing them this way rather than in the oven also gives them a nice smokey flavour. The eggplant flesh is then scooped from the skin and processed with tahini and lemon. Poor Bf-B is allergic to sesame seeds, so we made a special serve of each of the hummus and baba bhanouj without tahini for him.
We also made ful (slow cooked fava beans) and a tomato and cucumber salad with red onion. For the salad, you just need to deseed an equal amount of cucumber and tomato and finely dice them with a little red onion. Dress the salad with some lemon juice and olive oil and season to taste. Pickled vegetables and flat bread were added to the table to complete the meal.
By the time we sat down to eat, I couldn’t bring myself to eat more than 3 or 4 felafel as I had been grazing all day. Thankfully Bf-B’s parents had invited some friends around for dinner to help out.
So were they worth the hype? You bet. A crunchy exterior with a bright green center, you can almost fool yourself into believing they are healthy. Lather them in baba ghanouj and wrap them in flat bread; carnivores and vegetarians alike will be satisfied.
1 kg peeled, dried fava beans
2 bunches of parsley
1 bunches of chives
2 bunches of coriander
2 large brown onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 tsp baking powder
canola oil for frying
- Soak fava beans in water for 2 days, changing the water after the first day.
- After 2 days, drain the beans and rinse well. Allow to drain really well, otherwise you will have soggy felafel.
- In a meat grinder, grind the fava beans, parsley, chives and coriander. In a food processor, process the onion until very fine. Alternatively, if you don’t own a meat grinder, grind the beans and onion separately in a food processor until very fine, and finely chop the herbs.
- Place the fava beans, herbs and onions in a large bowl and add the cumin, mixed spice, oregano, salt and pepper and mix until well combined. Check the seasoning at this stage. You can also freeze the mixture at this stage if you like.
- Add the baking powder and eggs and mix together well.
- Heat 2 inches of canola oil to 160C in a deep saucepan or wok. Using the felafel shaper, shape the mixture into round patties and slide them into the oil. If you don’t have a felafel shaper, using wet hands shape the mixture into 3cm balls and flatten slightly before carefully placing in the oil. Fry the felafel a few at a time until deep brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towls and serve warm with sides.
Makes about 50
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
100ml olive oil, plus extra
1/3 cup tahini paste
2 tsp ground cumin, plus extra
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
- In a food processor, process the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini paste, groud cumin and lemon juice until very smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, spread hummus over a flat plate and drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with extra cumin.
Makes 2 cups
BABA GHANOUJ (EGGPLANT DIP)
1/3 cup tahini paste
Juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
olive oil to serve
- Roast the eggplants in the oven on high heat (200C), or on a BBQ grill for about 30 minutes until very tender. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
- Once cool enough to handle, cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh into a colander. Allow the eggplants to drain in the colander for about 10 minutes to remove any extra fluid.
- Add eggplants and remaining ingredients to a food processor and process until you have a smooth paste.
- Place Baba Ghanouj into a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil to serve.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups peeled, dried fava beans
1 tbsp ground cumin
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
chopped flat leaf parsley to serve
- Soak the fava beans in water and leave for 3 days to soak, changing the water each day.
- On the 3rd day, drain the beans and rinse again. Place them in a large saucepan and cover with water. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 hours or until the beans are very soft. Add more water during the cooking process if you need to.
- Once the beans are very tender, drain almost all the liquid off, reserving some. With a hand blender, blend until you have a lumpy mix with a few whole beans. Add as much of the reserved liquid as you need to make a thick sauce.
- Stir through cumin, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with fresh parsley.
RICE AND LENTILS
W/ CARAMELISED ONION
1 cup green lentils (not lentils du Puy)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cinnamon stick
- In a medium saucepan, add the lentils and fill with enough cold water to cover the lentils by about an inch. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile while the lentils are cooking, in a large saucepan heat the olive oil and add the cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns. Cook until the cumin seeds begin to darken, about 1 minute. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until they turn dark caramel brown, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add a little water if they begin to dry out and stick to the pan.
- Once the onion is caramelised, remove half and set aside for garnish. To the remaining half, stir through the ground cumin, cayenne and the cinnamon stick and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the onion mix.
- Drain the cooked lentils and add to the rice with 3 cups of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer, stirring only occasionally, until the rice is cooked, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the water – add a little more if it all evaporates before the rice is cooked. Don’t stir the rice too much otherwise the mix will become mushy.
- Transfer to a serving plate and top with the reserve caramelised onions and a squeeze of fresh lemon before serving.