Quick, Easy, Delicious cook-at-home Falafel. (disclaimer: not quick, not easy)  

*thanks to our guest falafel writer this week. The editor is currently travelling/honeymoon-ing and will be back shortly. (Don’t worry, falafel has featured heavily in these…travels and will be discussed at length during the next few posts).

Quick, Easy, Delicious cook-at-home Falafel. (disclaimer: not quick, not easy)

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I’ve eaten so many falafels in my life – made by so many establishments and nationalities of chef – Australian, Lebanese (hard to beat) British, Israeli, Turkish, Moroccan and Egyptian –  yet I  never knew it was such a controversial dish.

The origin of falafel has been hotly-contested, although it now seems to be generally agreed that it was originally made in Egypt with Fava beams, while the Israelis developed the chickpea version.

If you decide to embark on making your own homemade falafel, this hot contesting continues in cookbooks and on recipe websites and apps. There’s a range of views about the best ingredients and the best method.

I thought I might whip some up and save some money in the process.

First off, I needed to weigh up the need for speed and instant gratification, versus authenticity and texture.

Most aficionado middle eastern chef types are very clear that canned chickpeas are not even worth the discussion. Many feel the need to emphasise this point in CAPITAL LETTERS mid-recipe. Buy the beans, soak the beans overnight, do not cook the beans, do NOT use canned beans. It’s to do with moisture content, apparently.

Other recipe sites are cool with cans (and hence, speedy results.)

I decided to go hard-core and was pleasantly surprised how cheap dry chickpeas are for a kilo bag. You only need about a quarter of a bag to make a dozen.

The inclusion of baking powder and flour is also cause for debate and dispute, with those in either camp warning of dire consequences…

They all agree that some ingredients must be fresh – so you need to go shopping and make sure you get things that you probably don’t currently have –  like flat leaf parsley and fresh coriander.  Make sure that sesame seeds, sunflower oil (or other non-olive oil), ground cumin and other spices of choice are all in your house before you begin.

Another essential check before you start is some sort of food mixer/ blender. I have a cheap, complicated, multi-part  Ninja device,  which is neither a kitchen food processor nor a blender. It turned out fine, but you will find it very hard to make these falafel without owning something that can whiz up the uncooked soaked beans.

falafel jerusalem

I eventually chose the recipe of middle eastern Israeli sensation duo Yotam Ottolenghi and his Palestinian chef partner Sami Tamimi from their cookbook “Jerusalem”.

This actually recommended using a meat grinder – which (obviously) I neither own – nor know anyone who does. It also recommends baking powder and plain flour which other recipes avoid.

So, a full day after thinking about rustling up these quick friend snacks, I had finally got the soaked beans and all the fresh herbs assembled.

It was all pretty logical for the next step – chopping things up (garlic, onion, herbs) blitzing the beans and mixing it all together to produce a very pleasant bright green concoction.

raz falafel

The oil can go in a saucepan – 7cm in depth and hot enough to bubble up around the falafel mix. Creating the falafel with your hand and tablespoons is tricky as the mixture falls apart.  That’s why you often see little plug-like falafel shapers in falafel vans and restaurants. Indeed there’s a picture of a happy chef in the Jerusalem recipe book wielding one; another piece of equipment that would help at home but which no normal person possesses.

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It’s also near impossible to get sesame seeds on both sides.

But after a few minutes frying – and holding my nerve as they became quite dark – the first two falafel were on draining paper and ready for tasting.

                                           Verdict? Crunchy and authentic.

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They could use salt after cooking, but sauces or hummus deal with that. My non-vegetarian husband deemed them “aromatic and crispy”.

All that was now required was to make all the others, clean up lots of bowls, chopping boards, kitchen-whizzing bits and blades and oily spoons and pots, and then finally eat some myself.

falafel salad pitta
Final Analysis : delicious and cheap – but what a bloody faff! I really doubt I would do it again (although I may try the quick canned chickpea version and report back.) It is probably more fun if there are loads of you (to eat immediately and help clean up), and if you are a well-prepared type. Also, they do keep for a few days but are no longer crispy or as good.

Thank you to our guest reviewer this week! She wished to remain anonymous.

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WE DO NOT SELL NITROUS OXIDE

Apologies to all the falafel lovers out there. Your falafel stuffed author has been too busy watching TV and complaining about the cold to write any reviews for a while. Life is hard.
Well, we moved to another part of Bristol. One of the primary reasons to move was to appreciate a whole new range of falafel eateries, this time in Easton. Stapleton Road and St Marks Road both boast several places to find falafel, all within a stones throw of our tiny, mouldy flat (complete with infuriating downstairs neighbours).
Let me summarise the falafel thus far
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Al-Waha has it all. Pizza, Indian curry, Afghan food and, falafel. Having sampled most of these foods, I can quite firmly say that all of the food is cheap in taste and in price. The curry is overly greasy with murky vegetables swimming in fat, and the pizza is made with that weird fake cheese that is in all cheap pizza places (which is only edible when drunk). The falafel was equally shit. They didn’t even attempt to contain the ingredients within the so-called ‘wrap’, just letting it slop all over the greasy paper. Far too dry and far too onion-y, the falafel came with a tantalising smudge of hummus which did nothing to relieve the dryness. I was having one of my periodic no drinking spells, which naturally made the falafel even more depressing, along with life in British winter. Why did I decide not to drink? It is one of life’s small pleasures, along with falafel of course (good falafel, not shit falafel). I can’t wait to start drinking again. Anyway…
Bread 2/5 (was standard but the wrapping was terrible)
Falafel 1/5
Salad 1/5 (too onion-y)
Minus points for scant hummus
good points – price (£3 with chips)
Also, very un- pretentious. No frills. I like that.
Baba Ganoush – Stapleton Rd
‘WE DO NOT SELL NITROUS OXIDE HERE’ reads the sign on the door.

Good to know, I mused as we entered into the café with my brother and my niece. Techno was blasting out at lunchtime. The walls seems to be ‘boom town ‘ themed, which was weird, until I realised that the owners had helped set up the festival. Having been to Boom Town Fair many times, this café seemed to be perfect. Rave meets falafel. The seats were comfy. The nervous waitress took our order, seemingly disconcerted to have a 5 year old in tow with us. She was probably high.  We accidentally ordered a too large quantity of food, all mezze dishes, including falafel and hummus.

It was far too much food. It was also very overpriced for lunch.
The food was really tasty, but my niece didn’t agree. I think she probably wanted a cheese sandwich or something.
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price – too much
falafel – 4/5 good
bread- 4/5
Salad – 4/5
In all fairness, I would like to go back there again and just get the falafel wrap for a truly accurate analysis.
stay tuned for my next post – “the proposal”

a note from our sponsor…

As social media manager of rate my falafel.com I have a confession to make. I’ve only ever had falafel from a supermarket. So instead of continuing somewhat fraudulently in my new job I decided I would have FALAFEL! From somewhere that wasn’t Tesco’s!

Lucky for me I had already arranged to try out the new vegan (to)fish and chip shop Matter Fast Foods in Bristol with my parents. My poor mother had been away abroad on business and apparently where she was, FISH (eww), is a vegetable! So we needed to get her somewhere vegan ASAP.

And they had falafel!

falafel sign

As I approached the shop I realised this was the place to be in Bristol. The small shop was filled to the brim with hungry people! There was a queue which gave me slight anxiety (as someone who is non-British born) but it moved quickly and the service was friendly and the atmosphere was great!

Now having read and reread the reviews on ratemyfalafel.com I had expected the falafel to come wrapped in things like bread and hummus. But no….I got three falafels in a bag.

 

falafel in bag

3 FALAFEL IN BAG

I was confused.

But I was not deterred!

So i made my way back to the car and tucked in!
The falafel was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and it was beautifully spiced … overall it was a good falafel.

tasty morsel

I did however feel that I had failed in my attempt to have a full on falafel experience. No hummus or bread to rate. I wasn’t drunk because I don’t drink. I felt somewhat disheartened that I couldn’t deliver a review to the usual ratemyfalafel.com standard.

Next time I’ll stick to slowly building our social media empire!

And on that note… If you don’t already. Follow us on twitter. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on instagram. We need to be validated!

A note from the editor – rumour has it that Matter Foods Fish n Chips is very nice indeed- so don’t judge them just by their slightly lacking falafel!

 

other foods

Mr Falafel

London. The Big Smoke. Mr Falafel.

After a grueling couple of hours in the Science Museum, where we had seen Tim Peake’s actual space craft (v. disappointing) and learnt that scientists do lots of weird shit to mice, enough was enough. None of this learning and ‘culture’ malarky. We needed to get down to it. It was time for a falafel. Mr Falafel, of Shepherd’s Bush had been on the ‘list for years’, according to one of my esteemed colleagues, who had joined me for a jaunt in our nations capital. So we pottered along to Shepherds Bush, ruthlessly ignoring 2 other falafel stalls as we went (sorry Falafel King and Abu’s Falafel, maybe next time). On arrival, we were greeted with this sign:

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“we speak falafel fluently”- a welcome relief for tired falafel reviewers

Not only was it a Palestinian run cafe, it was Vegan society approved, multi-lingual in all things falafel. Inside, the cafe/takeaway was pleasantly understated with metal chairs and tables, but with brightly coloured walls which matched the Palestinian flag. Kitsch, retro even- but in a humble, not trying too hard sort of a way. “Authentic- for London” one friend commented.

The Menu contained an alarmingly varied selection of falafel wraps – 11 in total. This meant we spent a good 10 mins worrying about which one to get, as to be quite frank, they all looked amazing. We opted for 3 different ones so we could maximise the reviewing process. W went for the classic falafel wrap. Q went for the Falafel and Makdoos Wrap- which contained spicy walnuts as well as pickled aubergines. I, myself chose the Falafel and Ful Medames Wrap, which has seasoned broad beans in it in addition to the hummus and aubergine and salads.

On to the review. Each falafel came with a decorative jalepeno on the side, which we all agreed was A- a nice touch and B- surprisingly tasty and fresh. Some comments during the rapid eating process:

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the wrapped article

W: I Love It.

Q: It was Thrilling/Filling

C: Mmmmmn.

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the classic falafel wrap

W: You can  really taste the parsley.

Q: It’s bursting with flavour!

C: It’s really big.

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the makdoos

I’ll be quite honest here. This was possibly the best falafel I had ever had in my long career of falafel review, and that is considering mine was a little bit drippy and messy. I think this was because mine had more sauce in in from the ful medames dressing. However, we all agreed that the falafels were amazing, that we would definitely come back and try everything on the menu. We even bragged to the friendly staff that we would get the XL next time- though the mediums really were enormous anyway. The aubergine which made an appearance in all the falafels was delicious, and it is not often that you find both fried aubergine and hummus in  a ‘classic falafel wrap’.

Starting at a price of £4.50, for London I would say that it is very good value for money.

Intoxication Levels – 0/5

Dressings- 5/5

Bread- (Standard, 3.5/5)

Falafel -(5/5)

Extras – (5/5)

Over all a near perfect score. Well done Mr Falafel. You can visit their website at http://www.mrfalafel.co.uk for more info.