Homemade Falafels

Homemade Falafels

Falafels are traditional Middle Eastern deep fried patties or balls made from chickpeas, fava beans, or both.  They’re usually found stuffed in Pita bread or rolled in a flatbread along with fresh and pickled veggies and topped with a tahini sauce, that’s a Falafel Sandwich.  They are also eaten with fried eggs, hummus, babaganouj, and pickles for breakfast or served as mezzes and snacks.

My first encounter with falafels was at a kiosk in New York city where I grew up.  Buying a falafel sandwich from this kiosk was a treat when we spent the day at the near by park.  Then my family moved to Hawaii in the mid-70’s where there were no kiosks selling “ethnic” foods and so I didn’t have falafels again until I married my husband who is of Palestinian decent.  Imagine his surprise when I told him I actually knew what falafels were!

As newlyweds in Hawaii we had to figure out how to make falafels at home; as I new bride I had no clue!  Remember back in the 80’s there was no google, no pinterest, no instagram, or any kind of internet that would find a recipe in seconds.  I had to rely on cookbooks from the library, not really helpful.

Then we found a box of falafel mix at a local health food store.  Just add water and fry.  It wasn’t the best, but we made do.  I started experimenting with the boxed mix and found that adding finely chopped fresh parsley improved the taste.  Started adding more spices and pretty soon I figured I may as well by pass the mix and make it from scratch.   That didn’t go so well until I managed to buy a food processor, now I was in business!

As I was exploring the makings for falafel from scratch we started traveling all over the world.  Of course travel opens up your life to different places, foods, and cultures and our travels in the Middle East definitely helped my falafel making.  We loved the falafel sandwiches at Mr. Falfala in Cairo and the ones found on the streets of Diera in Dubai.  But nothing beats the fresh falafels served at Hashem’s and Abu Jbarra in Jordan!  On our last trip to Dubai this year we discovered that Abu Jbarra opened a place by the Dubai Mall, we ate brunch there almost everyday!

Anyway those trips to Egypt, Dubai, and Jordan whetted my desire to make falafels at home that would be close to the ones served in the places we loved.  I say close because I doubt I’ll ever figure out the exact match to Hashem’s falafels served in this little alley in downtown Amman.

I make large batches of falafels so that I have enough to freeze for future use.  Raw falafel paste freezes beautifully!  This way I don’t have to haul out the food processor every time I want to fry falafels and I always have some handy when  I have a yen for a falafel sandwich.

I’ve found that using fresh ingredients makes the difference between decent falafels and amazing ones!  So I use fresh cilantro, parsley, and dill as my primary seasonings; they will turn your mixture green, but the greener the falafel is the better it tastes in my opinion.  I also use dry chickpeas never canned.

It takes a bit of planning to make really great falafels, but believe me it’s so worth the effort!

Fresh Falafel

Ingredients:

8 oz. Dried Chickpeas (1/2 a bag)

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

1 Large bunch of Fresh Cilantro, rinsed and dried on paper towel

1 Large Bunch of Fresh American Parsley, rinsed and dried on paper towel

1 Small Bunch of Fresh Dill, rinsed and dried on paper towel

2 Tbs. Fresh Garlic, minced

1 Tbs. Cumin Powder

1 Tbs. Ground Coriander

1 Tbs. Sea Salt

1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

Oil for frying

Pita or Flat Bread

Optional Condiments: Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, pickled beets, tahini sauce, thousand island dressing, or what ever you want to add in the sandwich

Directions:

Pour dried chickpeas into a bowl and mix in baking soda.

Cover with water and soak overnight.

Rinse chickpeas in cool water and drain in a colander.

In a food processor load in this order:

Cilantro leaves and stems (you don’t have to use all the stems but do use the leaves), Parsley, Dill (prepare and use Parsley and Dill the same way as Cilantro).

Drained chickpeas and garlic

Dried spices (cumin, coriander, salt, pepper)

Turn on processor and grind until it is a paste

If freezing place paste into freezer safe containers and freeze.  Thaw before cooking.

If using immediately:

Heat about 2″ of oil in a small pot.

Add baking soda to falafel paste and combine well.

Test that oil is hot enough by dropping a small amount of falafel paste in; if oil starts bubbling around the paste your oil is ready for frying.

Form paste into small 1″ balls or patties and drop into hot oil.

Fry until all sides are brown, cooked falafel will float.

Drain on paper towels and serve as a sandwich filling or by itself for breakfast or as mezzes.


Homemade Falafels
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Roast grouse with blackcurrant & beetroot sauce

Roast grouse with blackcurrant & beetroot sauce

PREP: 40 MINS
COOK: 1 HR40 MINS
MORE EFFORT
SERVES 4

Available from August, this game bird is best served with a fresh, full-flavoured fruit sauce and a dash of whisky to boot

Ingredients

 

4 young grouse, legs removed and reserved

50g unsalted butter

4 thyme sprigs

1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped

4 slices pancetta

4 slices white country bread, buttered

buttered spinach, to serve (optional)

For the sauce

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sunflower oil
8 grouse
legs (see above)
1 shallot, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
2 tbsp whisky
600ml chicken stock
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
50g blackcurrant, topped and tailed
50g cooked beetroot, coarsely grated
1 tbsp crème de cassis

Method

1. First make the stock for the sauce: place a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot, melt the butter with the sunflower oil. Add the grouse legs and brown in the pan for 4-5 mins, turning regularly. Add the shallot, bay leaf, thyme and whisky, and reduce the heat. Allow any liquid to evaporate, then add the chicken stock. Press the legs down in the stock so that they are all covered. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook gently for 1 hr.

 

2. Discard the legs. Strain the stock into a clean pan and reduce, over a medium heat, until you have about 300ml. Allow this to cool, then cover and chill if not using immediately. Can be done a day ahead up to this stage. You can finish the sauce once the grouse are cooked.

 

3. Clean the grouse: remove any remaining feathers, and rinse the birds inside and out with cold water. Pat them dry with kitchen paper. Divide the butter between the cavities of the birds, and add to each a thyme sprig and some chopped shallot. Season the birds inside and out, and wrap a slice of pancetta over the top of each bird. The birds are now ready to cook, but can be chilled for several hours if necessary – allow them to come to room temperature before you cook them (this will take 1 hr or so).

 

4. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Place the grouse in a roomy roasting tin and the buttered slices of bread on a baking tray – they will toast at the same time as the grouse cook. To cook the grouse to medium, put in the oven for 18-20 mins. Keep an eye on the toasts and remove them when they are golden brown. The grouse are cooked when the breasts feel firm to the touch. If you have a cooking thermometer, cook them so that the thickest part of the breast, just above the wing, registers 55C.

 

5. Remove the birds from the oven. Place each on a piece of the buttered toast to absorb any juices that drain from the birds. Cover loosely with a piece of foil and leave to rest for 10 mins while you finish the sauce.

 

6. Put the roasting tin on the heat and, when it is warm, add the grouse stock. Let it simmer, scraping the juices from the bottom so that they dissolve in the stock. Add the redcurrant jelly, blackcurrants, beetroot, and finally the cassis. Simmer the sauce for 3-4 mins, then remove from the heat and season to taste. Serve the grouse on heated plates with a little sauce drizzled around, and some buttered spinach, if you like.


Roast grouse with blackcurrant & beetroot sauce
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Meat Filled Piroshki

Meat Filled Piroshki

For years now I usually write about travel on my Wednesday articles.  Lately due to the worldwide Pandemic travel has become difficult and many times ill advised.

Many of us have chosen to stay home this summer perhaps planning our next trip whenever we feel safe enough to venture further away from home.  In our case I’m not really sure when that will be, specially since cruising is one of our favorite vacation travel.  Sadly the cruising industry has canceled cruises thru September and will likely cancel cruises thru fall and possibly the rest of the year.

Yes we’re sad and even restless.  We haven’t been able to visit our daughter and her family in Italy since last fall.  And yes we miss traveling.  That’s why I’ve been trying to bring a little bit of our travels in to our home.  What better way to “re-live” some of our favorite vacation spots than thru food.  I’ve decided to share some of our favorite cuisine which we discovered during our travels.  Because isn’t food a big part of traveling anyway?

So for the next little while on my Wednesday post I’ll share a recipe for a favorite food we discovered during our travels.  I hope it will inspire you to try something different and maybe make plans to visit one of the countries!

Today I’ll share this Piroshki recipe.  Piroshkis are very similar to American meat pies, British Pasties, Middle Eastern Fatayer,  and even Empanadas from Mexico, Spain, and other Latin countries.

Piroshkis are a popular street or comfort food in Russia and the Ukraine.  They’re fried or baked oblong buns (I prefer the fried) filled with a variety of fillings including beef, chicken, pork, mushrooms, and cheese.  In Russia they’re considered a main course when eaten with a soup or salad.  It’s often served with sour cream.

Today I’ll share a recipe for Beef or Chicken filled Piroshkis.  They’re not too difficult to make and if you’re not used to working with yeast breads this is a fine recipe to start with as it’s fairly simple.

Meat Filled Piroshkis

Ingredients for the dough:

4 cups flour

1 Tsp. Active dry yeast

1/4 Cup warm water

1 Cup Milk

3 Eggs

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbs. Sugar

1 Tsp. Salt

Filling Ingredients:

1 Lb. Ground Beef, Turkey, or Chicken

1 Large Onion very finely chopped

1/2 Cup Mushrooms very finely chopped

1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Pepper

2 Tbs. Fresh Dill

1 Tsp. Dried Dill

1 Tbs. Fresh Garlic – minced

Oil for frying

Directions:

First prepare dough as follows:

Dissolve yeast in the warm water and place in a warm place until it’s frothy – about 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan on low heat pour in milk and let warm up.

Whisk in the eggs, oil, sugar, and salt.  This mixture will be warm and lumpy.

Remove from heat.

Place 1/2 of flour in bowl of stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand).  Using the dough hook gradually stir in the milk mixture until fully combined.

Alternately add yeast mixture and rest of the flour, be sure you mix well between additions.

Mix well.

Knead until the dough forms a ball and does not stick to sides of bowl.  You may have to add some more flour (1 Tbs. spoon at a time) to get the dough to the proper consistency.

Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. About 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

When dough has doubled in size place the ball into a lightly floured surface.

Pinch of pieces of dough to form a ball about 2″.

Flatten dough and using a rolling pin roll each ball into disks about 4″ in diameter.

Place a heaping Tbs. of filling in the center of dough.  Form filling into a line across the diameter.  Fold dough over meat and pinch both ends to seal.

Place filled piroshki on to a sheet with the seam side down and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat enough oil in a pan deep enough so that the piroshkis will be at least halfway immersed in oil.

Place piroshki in hot oil seam side down.  Fry until golden brown.

Gently flip over and fry other side.

Drain cooked piroshki on paper towels before serving.

Meat Filled Piroshki
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