Recipes from food stylist Nicolas Ghirlando: Fish fingers to Friday nights.

Finger On the Pulse

falafel
I’ve had falafels in the past where I’m not sure if  they’ve dropped a squash ball in the wrap and disguised it with garlic mayonnaise or after a busy day, they’ve swept all the dust from the floor and glued it together with chilli sauce. That could, however, be down to the kind of places I’ve visited and the time of day I’ve found myself there.

I’ve heard talk here and there of the best falafel in London, without really paying attention, but toastandbutter.net mentions a place just down the road from me. I will visit one day, it’s down the path of good intentions. It’s just that the thought of dragging myself over to a windswept and lonely park isn’t very appealing.

In the meantime, I’ve made my own, and honestly, these are the best falafels I’ve ever made. However, I think they may  be the only falafels I’ve ever made. I’d recommend eating them fresh from the pan, hot, just slightly crumbly and wrapped in warm, homemade flatbreads with chilli sauce and peppers.

If you like, you can make the mix, shape it and keep it covered in the fridge for a day. It’s better to cook them to order than to eat them after they’ve been hanging around for a while, like someone in a kebab shop queue.
Let me know how you make yours, and if you have any secret ingredients.

Ingredients
1 tin of chickpeas. Even better would be the equivalent amount, dried and soaked overnight, but you may have forgotten, like I did, or maybe you can’t be bothered. Either is fine
2 banana shallots, finely sliced. Peeled of course
1 red onion, finely sliced, as above
1 mild red chilli, chopped (or more if you like them poky)
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground coriander
A pinch of grated nutmeg
A handful of baby spinach, quickly wilted, finely chopped and cooled
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp chickpea (gram) flour for dusting. Or plain flour if you don’t have any
Salt and pepper. Use decent salt with everything, please
250ml rapeseed oil for frying I like Hillfarm

Method
Slowly sauté the onion, shallots and spices in a pan until soft and golden. Season well, add the chilli and cook for a minute more.
Put this in a large bowl, add the spinach, chickpeas, egg and a dash of olive oil then mix well.
Mash the mixture together. I used my hands for the fun of it. I won’t do it that way again, it took ages. I’d use a potato masher or stick blender, but be sure to not turn it into a purée. It’s best if some of the chickpeas remain whole or halved to give a better texture.
When you’re happy with the mix, shape them using your hands or two tablespoons into quenelle-like shapes. You can then squash these down into patties if you like.
Dust them in the flour and put in the fridge to firm for about an hour.
Heat a deep pan with the rapeseed oil to about 180c and when ready, slowly drop in a few of the falafels, one at a time. Cook until golden all over, turning them occasionally in the oil. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain while you finish the rest.
Serve with tahini yoghurt and some flatbreads and banish those bad memories.

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