January 2010

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Falafel is eaten throughout the Middle East usually wrapped in bread as a sandwich. It makes an ideal meal for vegetarians and vegans, it can also be served as a starter. The main ingredients are dried broad beans and chickpeas, the rest can be varied to suit your taste, for instance, if you don’t like coriander, you could substitute it with parsley or if you like your Falafel spicier you could add chillies. One more thing, it is important that the ingredients are dried thoroughly, otherwise the mixture will be too wet and mushy. In the end, we will be looking for a tasty mixture that binds firmly when you shape it. 

 

A great advantage is that once cooked, it freezes well. Once defrosted, it and can be reheated in a hot oven or microwave. 

 

Makes about 20

 

Ingredients

 

  • 200g/ 7oz skinless dried split broad beans soaked overnight in water with ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g/ 3oz chickpeas, preferably split chickpeas, soaked overnight in water with ¼  tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 medium sized leek washed, drained from excess water trimmed and chopped
  • 5 fat cloves of garlic peeled and smashed to a paste
  • 1 sweet red pepper washed and chopped
  • about 5 spring onions washed and finely chopped
  • 50g / 2oz coriander, rough stalks discarded, washed dried and chopped.
  • 1 or 2 chillies (optional)
  • 1 slice of bread (optional)
  • About 4 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • Bicarbonate of soda

 

Seasoning

  • Salt & freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 rounded tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice

 

To serve

  • Lebanese bread, allow 1 bread per person 
  • Mixture of sliced radishes, chopped parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickled turnips
  • Tahini sauce or Taratoor (See recipe in Sauces)

 

Method

 

  1. Soak broad beans and chickpeas separately in water, adding bicarbonate soda to each, leave them for several hours, ideally overnight.

 

  1. When you are ready to cook, rinse the broad beans, drain then and spread them on a tea towel to dry. Next, rinse the chickpeas, for the split ones, add fresh water and using your fingers rub the skins off and discard, rinse again the skinless chickpeas, drain and dry thoroughly. If you have whole ones, rinse and drain them then take whatever you can fit on a large chopping board, cover with a tea towel then bash them gently with a rolling pin. You will see that the skins come off, discard the skins, pick up the skinless ones and keep them to one side, it does not matter if they are broken because we need to grind them later. Repeat the process with the rest of the chickpeas, then rinse drain and dry.

 

  1. Now, put broad beans, chick peas, along with the rest of the ingredients adding 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda in a food processor. Process until you reach a mixture that binds together firmly. If it is too moist, shred the bread, add it to the mixture and process again. Taste and adjust taste if necessary, then cover and leave it to rest for an hour.

 

  1. Take a piece of the mixture the size of a golf ball, shape it into a patty about 4-5 cm/ 1½ -2 inches diameter and place it on a plate, continue likewise with the rest until the mixture is finished. Let the patties rest for 20 minutes.

 

  1. Heat the oil to about 190°C/ 375°F, dust each patty in the sesame seeds (this is optional) before dropping it into the hot oil, do likewise with the rest. Deep fry for about 3 minutes turning them once or twice until they reach a deep golden brown colour. Drain on a kitchen paper and keep warm until you finish deep frying.

 

  1. To serve: Open up the bread, leaving the other half attached, put the patties creating one row in the middle, top it with the salad of your choice then drizzle with the tahini sauce, flip the other half of the bread to cover, roll it up, wrap the bottom side with greaseproof or kitchen paper (to catch the excess juice) and eat. Alternatively, serve the falafel on a plate with a little salad, bread and sauce on the side.  

Although Owwamat or Lebanese Doughnuts are available all year round, it is traditional for the Christians in Lebanon to eat them on 6 January to commemorate Jesus’ baptism, the Feast of Epiphany. As a child, I used to compare Owwamat to ping-pong balls because their rounded shape looked so perfect, it is not easy to achieve that at home, however the home-made ones are much tastier than the ones sold in shops.

 

There are also other fritters served on this occasion such as M’shabbak where confectioners pride themselves in displaying these colourful laced discs, Ma’croon and Zellabiya, the latter is rarely found in patisseries, it is usually homemade more specifically by countrywomen. These fritters are best served hot and fresh, they won’t keep well for long.

 

Makes about 16 doughnuts

 

Ingredients

  • 150 g / 5 oz plain flour
  • ¼ tsp yeast
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 65 ml / 2 ½ fl oz plain yoghurt
  • About 150 ml / 5 fl oz tepid water
  • 1 quantity of Sugar Syrup/ Ater (See recipe)
  • Enough vegetable oil to deep fry

 

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a Pyrex or non-metallic bowl, stir in yeast and salt, then mix in the yoghurt. Mix well all the ingredients adding gradually the tepid water, to achieve a smooth batter that has a dropping consistency. Cover and set aside in a warmish place for roughly one hour after which the batter should rise a little with some bubbling on the surface. Meanwhile, prepare the sugar syrup. 
  2. When the batter is ready, heat up the oil until it is hot, (you can test it by dropping a tiny amount of batter, if it floats and the oil is bubbling, it means it is the right temperature). Lightly grease a dessert spoon with oil and take a spoonful of batter then drop it into the hot oil, do as many as you can fit easily in the deep fryer. Fry the doughnuts, turning them until they look fluffy and reach a golden colour on all sides, this should take about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen papers, before dipping them into the syrup, swirl the doughnuts around for a minute or so then transfer into a serving dish, do likewise with the remaining batches. This is how it is usually done, however, I prefer not to dip the doughnuts into the syrup, I like them fluffy with a bit of crispiness, I simply let people add the amount of syrup they like.
  3. Serve while they are warm.

 

NB: Home-made doughnuts do not keep well for the next day.