I may have mentioned it before – I love chickpeas! An amazingly versatile pulse, chickpeas can be used in so many different dishes, starring in it’s own right or as a replacement for something less healthy. They can be served whole, mashed, blended or ground, absorb other flavours or stand out with their own deep, rustic taste. Dairy free and free from most things people tend to be allergic or intolerant to, chickpeas are packed with nutrients, protein and fibre.
Also known a garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a great protein source for people eating a plant based wholefood diet, or just trying to cut down on their meat intake. Low in fat (and cholesterol free), chickpeas are 23% protein, that’s better than many meat products. It is however, not a complete protein, low in one of the essential amino acids. To counterbalance this, however, they can be combined with whole wheat or rice to create a complete protein packed meal, without all the added extras found with meat – saturated fat, cholesterol, antibiotics etc.
Falafels are one off my favourite chickpea dishes. So simple to make, these small patties are a taste sensation, packed with flavour and healthy goodies. My kids love them too, and they make a great mid week meal combined with wholewheat pitta breads (or flatbread) and salad. Before we moved to India, I always used to buy ready made falafels. Once in India, there were no falafels to be seen so I made my own. And once I realised quite how easy they are, ready made ones just don’t quite seem the same any more!
Flavouring is the key to a good falafel – the spices should be tasted but not overpowering and they really do need salt. If you have a gluten intolerance, then chickpea flour works brilliantly instead of wholewheat flour, if you can find it. Called gram or besan flour in India it’s supposed to be quite easy to make by grinding dried chickpeas in food processer. I’ve not tried it yet myself as it was available in every grocery store in India; I’m hoping to find it in an Asian grocery store now we’re back in the UK. The falafel mix needs to be quite dry, so you may need to add a little more flour during processing. I use fresh coriander as well as dried, but you can use parsley if it’s easier to find, but it gives it a different flavour.
My falafels always end up a bit flat as I shallow fry them in a small amount of oil. Round falafels have to be deep fried, and so of course end up with a higher fat content.
350g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or a 410g tin.
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
handful of fresh coriander, including stems roughly chopped
1 tspoon ground cumin
1 tspoon ground coriander
1/2 tspoon chilli powder
2 tablespoon wholewheat flour
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of oil
If you have soaked chickpeas, cook them in a pressure cooker for about 4 whistles. Leave to cool.
Drain chickpeas (cooked or tinned) and dry off with kitchen roll. Place in a food processor with all the other ingredients except for the oil and blend until smooth(ish) – if you like texture, or more rustic falafels, don’t over blend. Coat hands with flour, take out a spoonful of mixture and form into a round, flatish pattie. Put on a plate. This amount makes around 12 balls. Cover the plate with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes or so, or until you’re ready to cook them.
To cook, heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet and fry the falafels on both sides until brown. I tend to cook on a higher heat to start, then lower the flame to allow the falafel to cook all the way through. Serve straight away in warmed pitta bread with mayo and salad. Enjoy!