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The origin of falafel has been hotly-contested, although it now seems to be generally agreed that it was originally made in Egypt with Fava beams, while the Israelis developed the chickpea version.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

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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.

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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.

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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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Magic Falafel by ANON.

It’s rare to find yourself in Camden Lock market on a weekday unless you work there, are a tourist, or a teenager looking for something illicit. I was just hungry after walking from town. It was sweltering and jammed full, with people lining the sides of the canal, the water bright green with summer algae.  Camden is a place renown for fast, varied, portable international food – much of it vegetarian. It even boasts a Mildred’s. The street food stalls snake around three or four alleyways in the market, with vendors cooking in small box kitchens and vying for passing trade.  They’ve taken to laying out samples on their counters to make their offerings stand out and appeal. But in the heat, it all just looked congealed and fly-blown. Despite its veggie credentials, there was very little fresh food on offer in the market. Lots of basic meat in bread/wrap combinations – tacos, burgers, various Asian specialities wrapped in a takeaway layer of various rice papers or chapatti – but nothing with any crunch.  It’s noticeable in the new laudable hipster love affair with plant-based diets that many of the insta/facebook sites and markets do tend to be of the deep-fried, processed faux meat, highly sugar-laced confectionary type. There’s a lot of cake and baked goods that you’d never look at twice normally, being scoffed in the name of new found vegan life.  It might be a symptom of the difficulty in carting fresh and chopped salad and vegetables in confined street food vendor vans and stalls. It might be nutritional ignorance – or everyone’s having a lot of cheat diet days. Whatever the reason, it’s great to turn Vegan to save the planet, but you have to save yourself too, and only a balanced diet of varied plants will do that.

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Which is why falafel is such a perfect meal. A falafel wrap just cannot be a falafel wrap unless it contains mountains of crisp salad and pickle.  A truly wonderful falafel – street food or not – always come with that right combination of masses of varied, fresh and crunchy salad, hotly spiced falafel, perfect creamy tahini sauce, sweet/sharp chilli sauce and soft pita. So it took a few forlorn wanders around the market (and even a look into Mildred’s) finally to come across a side alley with the glorious sight of a mountain of fresh carrots, purple cabbage, pickles, tomatoes and grilled aubergines calling to me like a siren to a sailor in the deep fried fog. It’s called Magic Falafel – and not only are they jolly nice people – their falafel roll is a masterpiece of stuffing pita with extraordinary amounts of crunch, bite and creaminess, for six pounds. They do boxed falafel too for those who eschew bread. But the pita comes in a nice tough bag, easy to take away and eat by the canal with a view of the algae and Amy impressionists, and strong enough to take what’s left (it’s huge) home.

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Magic Falafel. Camden Lock Markets.

Bread – 3/5

Falafel- 4/5

Salad – 4/5

Extras 4/5

Intoxication – 0/5

Many Thanks to our special guest reviewer ANONYMOUS this week!

 

Guest Blog – Ich Bin Ein Berliner

19718742_1109141535852999_1860807209_o.jpgIt was my last night in Berlin and falafel was needed to celebrate the end of….Let’s say a trying week. Trying to work on a budget I had booked myself an airbnb for my 7 nights holiday. I lasted only 4. This airbnb housed a child who threw epic tantrums at 6am that DROVE ME MAD. I was tired. Grumpy. Tearful. I was Over It-  and this was by day 3. After being woken up again by the sound of harmonicas being played (really?) screaming, vacuuming and more screaming, I had had enough. I scoured booking.com for the cheapest deal (I wasn’t going to put my trust into airbnb a second time). Here I landed in, according to wikipedia, the most famous avenue in Berlin: Kufurstendamm. I was surrounded by wealth. My hotel greeted me with a chandelier and had its very own haagen-daz restuarant (no use to a vegan, but I appreciated the luxury). The day before I had spotted FalafelMe from the other side of the road. It looked bright and friendly and its sign boldly stated it was vegetarian.

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It was decided then that for my last night I would go there! All day I had rehearsed how I would ask if it was vegan and for them to omit the cucumber (keine gurke!!!). As I walked for what felt like forever (15 minutes) past all the designer shops my self esteem slightly diminishing with every display of wealth and beauty I finally spotted the bright welcoming signage! They had a number of sauces to choose from. I naturally went for the one named vegan and successfully conveyed my distaste for cucumber. The service was fast and before I knew it I had a bulging falafel pita sandwich. The falafel was crisp and rich and the salad was colourful and crisp. There was even a chilli on top and some bright purple thing that tasted of nothing but made it look great. Unfortunately there were no seats and I was forced to walk past the high end shops, the likes of Chanel, Gucci and bvlgari with bits of lettuce falling down my top and sauce getting in my hair. I managed to find a nice small park to devour the falafel. And it was goooood! )

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Falafel – 4/5 (to be honest I’m pretty new to the falafel game so my references are few)

Brot- 4/5

Salat- 4/5

Level of intoxication- 0/5

Many Thanks to Lil J, our social media organiser and today’s Guest reviewer!

My pitta overfloweth (and not in a good way)

It was a grey Wednesday morning as I woke blearily on the floor of the squat I had been kipping on for the past few nights. The previous night, as I stood rather uselessly watching people impressively craft a bar out of doors that had been acquired from around the building, my friends words had rung through my head – “Apparently it’s the best falafel place in the city. Every lunch time there are queues down the street.” My belly had rumbled at the thought and I reflected on how glad I was that I had taken her up on the idea of trialling such a tempting offer. It was with this in mind I found myself commuting across London at lunch time to meet said friend and head over to try possibly ‘the best falafel in the city.’

As we wandered through the curving little streets near Blackfriars station, right in the heart of belly of the urban beast, we talked at length about previously good falafels we’d had.

I’m not sure I would ever rate anything I’ve eaten 5 out 5,” my friend mused “I would have to know that nothing could ever be better and I’m not sure I could ever know that.”

It was a fair point indeed.

We continued to chat about the best things we’d ever eaten and concluded that really it had a lot to do with the time, the place and what you were actually craving. Wracking our brains back we decided that maybe pizza from a big fast food chain, a chocolate bar and pasta at a central London restaurant had to be the top things on our list for hitting the spot…but here we were, falafel on the brain and hungry rumbling stomachs, were things about to change?

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Falafel House (http://www.falafel-house.co.uk/) was a small little deli with a few high chairs to sit on at the window. We were faced with the choice of falafel in pitta (£4.50) or a falafel salad box (£6.25) – which I suppose isn’t that expensive for the centre of our capital city but still made me wince slightly. Naturally we both went for falafel in pitta and I decided to splash out the extra £1 and get fried aubergines in mine too. The woman serving me did not seem happy with the world today, glowering somewhat at me, but none-the-less filled the pitta up with the multitude of salads they had on offer behind the counter and squeezed a generous amount of chilli sauce over the top.

The first thing I noticed when I unwrapped my falafel from its neat little bag was that the “pitta” it was in looked nothing like any pitta I’d had before. My friend assured me that it was definitely fluffy but still a pitta – I had felt maybe I had just been fobbed off with a large bread roll. The “pitta” was full to the brim and successfully held its consistency and large amount of filling right to the last bite, which is something I feel I can rarely say these days. The falafel, which was actually hard to taste among the multitude of different salads and smotherings of sauce, was fresh and tasty. The salad, of which there was a huge and varied amount, took up most of the wrap and completely swamped the fried aubergine I had paid that extra £1 for (why do I bother?). I feel my friend made the right decision when she opted to not have the bean or lentil salad in hers, I on the other hand had just eagerly nodded when the sullen server had asked if I wanted all salad.

All in all this was definitely not your traditional falafel in pitta but certainly filled us up and left us with a pleasant taste in our mouths. The huge variety of salad, ranging from tabouleh and grated carrot to mixed bean salad to green lentils, would probably have been better appreciated in a salad box and if I go back I’ll definitely be more selective with my choice. Despite not living up to being ‘the best falafel in the city’ it certainly seemed to be the most popular falafel place in the city as a hefty crowd of suits swarmed in and out of the place throughout our stay and I felt very lucky that we’d managed to quickly bag ourselves one of the 4 chairs in the place to munch our lunch. 

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Now here comes the stats!

Falafel -3/5 – Good fresh tasting falafel but nothing to write home about

Bread- 2.5/5 – We both concluded that falafel is best served in a wrap

Salad – 3/5 – The salad selection was vast and expansive (probably would have been good if we had wanted a falafel salad box – but who wants that?) however there were too many different flavours for one wrap. 

Sauce – 3/5 – The chilli sauce had a good amount of spice but could very well have been any big brand sauce from the supermarket

Have you had a good falafel? Or a disgusting one? We need to know! Email us at ratemyfalafel@gmail.com

Many thanks to angel_girl for this excellent summary of  Falafel House!

 

 

Rate My Falafel Does Social Media

Two years of RATE MY FALAFEL has passed. Two glorious falafel-ly years. It was time to go SOCIAL MEDIA. That’s right, we at RATEMYFALAFEL.COM have got our very own Twitter and Instagram!!!

Now, I’m not one of those old fashioned stick in the mud type people who REFUSE to move with the times, but as I don’t even own one of those smart phone malarky’s, I thought I would delegate my social media presence to my younger and cooler friends. I simply don’t have time, when there are falafel’s to be eaten and scathing reviews to be published.

To celebrate this new modern take on the takeaway, we decided to treat ourselves to…yep, you guessed it. A falafel wrap. Well, when I say we, I am actually just talking about myself. It’s the royal we. I wonder if the Queen eats Falafel? #Falafel #queeneatsfalafel?

As you can see, it may take a while to get to grips with the modern media. Anyway, I was in Cardiff, I was on Twitter, and I was ready for a falafel. Our no.1 choice (Falafel Wales) was shut, and my well to do friend turned up her nose at another one down ‘chippy alley’, so we ended up at Atma Cafe, a Hare Krishna place which does a range of vegetarian and vegan food. For Cardiff, £4.95 was a bit pricey for a falafel wrap, but falafel must get eaten and it was special treat. It was, the menu boasted, a ‘quinoa falafel’. I was confused, but intrigued. How would it stay together? What would it look like? I mused these questions and more as I took in the details of the cafe, the smell of incense, the spider man quotes  ‘with great power comes great responsibility..’

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It came, and fast. And it was red! Not the normal brown crispy outside with the luscious green interior, no! It was red. And I have no idea how they made it, as I didn’t ask but had beetroot in it that I suppose/hope gave it the lovely red colour. It was really delicious. It came with a little side of sweet sauce, sort of plum like or something and it was very nicely decorated on the plate. At first I was quite jealous of my friend with her tasty looking pie, as I am getting more and more tired of always having to choose falafel, but this was a new experience. Falafel with a twist. The salad was fresh and the bread wasn’t that great, just that typical wrap bread you get everywhere- but in general it was very filling, very flavoursome and, as mentioned before, a great colour. Check out their menu here http://www.atmacafe.co.uk/menu/

 

Falafel -5/5

Bread- 2/5

Salad – 2.5/5

Sauce – 4/5

 

  • Note to self – I must go somewhere really nasty soon and rip it to shreds, as all the recent reviews have been far too nice. I had been hoping it might be a bit preachy and spiritual, but the staff were pleasant and helpful and didn’t smirk at me in disdain or anything, dammit.
  • p.s please like and share and improve our online social media presence. Thanks!

 

 

 

International Falafels

Well its been a busy and jet setting few months here at Falafel Central. From Belgium to Sweden, Copenhagen to Ireland and Ibiza thrown in, we really are dedicated to giving YOU, THE READER, a full spectrum of Falafel.

Taking advantage of Ryan Airs obscenely cheap flights from Bristol to Dublin, we flew into the freezing cold bitterly raining isle at stupid o-clock in the morning. Bleary eyed through lack of sleep, and feeling a deep sense of shame from having sunk so low as to fly to a country literally next door, for a grand total of 4 days,  we emerged into the street of Dublin. Despite the weather, I’ll say this for Ireland- the music is incredible. Luckily we had some friends to show us where the good folk sessions were, and we were blown away by the musicians we saw. One of them was a 13 year old cello-ist who made me wonder what I was doing with my life. Every other person could pick up a fiddle and play a jaunty tune. I thought longingly of my once played violin gathering dust in my cupboard, the result of one of my more recent whims.

We also went for a lovely walk in the hills just outside of Dublin, and once tired and wet, we began the search for a falafel establishment. We didn’t have long to wait.

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The hummus came on the side- an interesting twist and the bread was cooked well. The salad was interesting- with a subtle sweet and nutty taste and a little of the side too. However, the falafel was unimpressive due to the soft texture and I was not left sufficiently full after paying 7 euros 50 for the wrap. It was in one of those very nice but very vegan/organic/yoga/holier than thou sorts of places which don’t really compare to a good takeaway/kebab shop.

Our next trip was to Ibiza, just a few days later. Yes, we really are spoilt.

This was more like it. ‘The West End’ was booming out terrible dance music and we were being urged into various brightly lit nightmarish bars full of complete morons and the falafel shop was already full of sunburnt Brits (ourselves included, we were really quite sunburnt by the 2nd day.)

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It was exactly the kind of place we wanted and I remember thinking as we waited in the smelly room for our order that ‘this is the type of place that will make me ill’. I wasn’t wrong, I felt mildly sick all day the following day. I managed to remember in time to tell him to leave off with the ‘white sauce’ they insist on drowning your falafel in when in Spain, opting instead for the chili sauce. It tasted weird. I felt very grate the following day, that we had only shared one between us. I don’t think I need to bother saying, but it was a very bad falafel indeed.

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Ibiza was quite disturbing, not least when an old friend of a friend tried to embroil us in some sort of complicated scam involving £1000 each and opening up a beach bar before escaping to Brazil. However, the Island itself is very beautiful.

Stay tuned for  Tales of Sweden, Copenhagen and Belgium.

And we have a very special announcement to make.We at RateMyFalafel.com are going to be running a Half Marathon to raise money for Refugees in Calais and Morocco. After we have done this, we are going to eat a very large falafel.

You can sponser us here : https://gogetfunding.com/the-falafel-athon/

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Mountain- The Climax of the Camino de Santiago

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You lot may or may not know but the writers of ratemyfalafel.com did a very long walk to some old church in Northern Spain. It was along this journey that the idea for Rate My Falafel came about, as we became increasingly distressed by the lack of vegan food. So here’s what we found at the end.

We had made it. The only thing that had kept us going, for the last few, long, long miles, was the thought of Falafel. Actually, I think perhaps I was thinking about a mojito and never walking again, but falafel was pretty high on the list after these.

But I was concerned. The town of Santiago was rather conservative. Would there even be a kebab shop selling the one thing we wanted the most?

We were on our hands and knees as dawn broke. Crawling. Posturing ourselves in front of the great cathedral, we prayed. Please, God, Lord, Our Saviour, please give us falafel. The sky lit up and Lo, there it was. A falafel fell from the sky and landed into our outstretched hands.

Or not. However, as the day progressed, we trooped around looking for a likely spot, and our hopes sank. No sign of falafel anywhere. And our requests for Mojitos were greeted with blank stares too. Suddenly, an advert struck my eye. Vegan Restaurant. We looked at each other. Could they have falafel? Running to the address it gave, we peered in through the windows. In disgust. 7 euros for some hummus and pita! We were enraged. We went to get a few cans of beer and drink them in the street whilst pondering our next move. And then I saw it. On a side street, its gleaming sign. Falafel. I spat out my beer and leaped up. We sprinted into the restaurant, sweating slightly in the warm October air.

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Cedros Restaurant
Rua do Vilar, 81
Santiago De Compostela, Spain
15705
Price- 3 euros

I could immediately tell that they knew what they were doing. Cool, professional, and slightly more sophisticated than your average kebab shop, they had ample seating and a calm, clean atmosphere. If only we had taken advantage of this- instead we chose to perch outside and gulp it down with large quantities of San Miguel.

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I had emphasized that I did not want any mayonaise ( I had had my fill of this type of sauce). It was much better than I had hoped. It came with a yoghurt sauce instead, a more traditional and in my opinion much nicer way to dress the falafel. However, hummus was not offered, nor did I see it as an option. While we were waiting for the falafel to be ready, the owner of the restaurant was kind enough to aid me in my horoscope reading (there were plenty of magazines) and correct my villainous Spanish.

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Biting down into the wrap, I noticed that the salad crunched perfectly in my mouth, light and refreshing. However, the salad in itself was not as imaginative as I would have liked, it was lacking variety such as jalepenos or olives.
Level of intoxication: 3.5/5
Flavour of Actual Falafel: 3/5
Condiments: 3/5
Salad: 2/5
Service: 3/5
Total:

Vegan Options- available (chili sauce instead of yoghurt).