There is a fab Middle Eastern restaurant in Providence call East Side Pockets (http://www.eastsidepocket.com/) which has completely sparked my recent obsession with Middle Eastern style dining.
Here’s my version of a complete Middle Eastern hero- falafel.
Ingredients (I made 15 falafel from these ingredients)
1 cup diced white mushrooms
I small white onion
½ cup plain flour- plus a little extra for dusting
1 can chickpeas (drained)
1 tsp sesame oil
Zest of a lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic
Juice of half a lemon
A handful size bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
Half a handful sized bunch of fresh parsley
Oil for frying- I used corn oil
Salt and pepper
Half a cucumber (about 4 inches long)
1 cup greek yoghurt
2 tsp dried mint
Finely dice your mushrooms, garlic and onion and add to a frying pan with the cumin, gently fry in the sesame oil until soft. Sesame oil does not have as high a smoking point as corn or sunflower oil so be sure to fry on a gentle heat. Remove the mixture form the pan and spread out onto a large plate then pop in the fridge to cool.
Drain the chickpeas well and pour them into a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the parsley and coriander (cilantro) then add them to the mixing bowl along with all the other falafel ingredients. When the mushroom and onion mixture is cool add this as well.
A lot of falafel recipes call for blending of the ingredients or mashing them to make a smooth paste, there is nothing wrong with this and you will still get a beautiful flavour but I’m a fan of texture. Using your hands, scrunch the ingredients together and mash with your fist to create a well texture mix that have some whole chick peas, some crushed ones and some smooth paste. This means that when you fry the falafel the ingredients that have been reduced to paste will hold the shape of the patties but you’ll still have some good bite from the whole ingredients.
Spread a little flour on a plate and make your falafel, scoop a tablespoon sized portion on to your floured hand and roll into a ball, then flatten so it’s about half an inch thick. If the falafel gets a bit stick, dab you palm onto the floured plate. Repeat until all your mixture has been made into patties, heat your frying oil in a large pan, you are not deep frying these falafel but you do want a nice crisp shell so glug in enough oil so that it will come about a quarter of the way up each falafel.
Fry the falafel for about 2 minutes on each side until they are a beautiful golden brown, then set them aside on a plate covered in kitchen towel for the excess oil to drain off so they stay crisp.
You can serve these up straight away or pop in the fridge to keep for a few days, they can be eaten hot or cold and can be reheated in a dry pan by dry frying for about a minute on each side on a medium heat.
To make the yoghurt sauce, peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthways. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the watery seedy inside then chop into large chunks, pop in a mixing bowl (or regular blender) with the yoghurt, salt and mint and blend away- I used my trusty stick blender!
Serve the falafel up simply with the yoghurt sauce or in an oven warmed pitta or with feta cheese and tomato relish (see my relish recipe later in the week!) for an exciting vegetarian alternative to a rather sad looking veggie burger!