Flatafels, falapatties, frifels, falatters, frittatela, frittafels…

A mountain of falafels

Ingredients

  • 1 onion peeled
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 500g soaked chickpeas (from 250 dried)
  • 6 sprigs of parsley, picked
  • a bunch of coriander (leaves and top part of stem)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp gram flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Preparation

  1. Soak chickpeas overnight or 8+ hours with plenty of water (they might double in weight)
  2. Roughly chop the onion, garlic, and herbs on a food processor

    Before chopping garlic, coriander, etc
    Before chopping garlic, coriander, etc
  3. Add chickpeas and chop them too
  4. Tip the mix to a large bowl
  5. Mix in the spices, sesame seeds, salt, flour and baking powder. Combine all well together.
  6. Add oil to a pan and bring to a high heat
  7. Now, you can use damp hands to shape bits of the mix into balls or patties, or you can use two wooden spoons which is what I did, using one to scoop the mix out and the other one to flatten it a bit before placing it on the pan. Once it’s in the pan and it has settled a bit, I delicately flatten it further using the spoon.
  8. After a while, you will want to delicately turn them around, once they’re browned on one side.Β  Be careful not to do it too early or they might crumb and break!
    Four falafel fritters, browning
  9. When they are browned on both sides, take them out of the pan.
  10. You might want to add a bit more oil for the next batch.
  11. Repeat until you’re done with all the mix!

Background

I had a really disappointing experience with some supermarket-bought falafel recently. It was dry and crumbly, had no taste or kick whatsoever, and all in all, it was utterly dissatisfying. I should have known better, I know. I guess I was just very hopeful that day 😜

“Of course”, I thought, “it can’t be that hard to make falafel myself, as chickpeas are basically foolproof”.

So I searched for a falafel recipe. I found lots from US based writers which used ingredient names I’m not familiar with and I was quite suspicious of, and I was starting to feel a bit disappointed, until I had an illumination, and searched for “falafel honey and co”.

And my wish for a trustworthy looking recipe was fulfilled: Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer —or essentially, the “heads” of Honey & Co— went to Women’s Hour in BBC Radio 4, and shared their falafel recipe there.

BUT I do not have a fryer, and I didn’t want to use a lot of oil to fry the falafels. So I ended up flattening them; I figured that would increase the surface that was exposed to the heat. Which turned them into flat falafels. Or like chickpea fritters. Or patties. Or… any combination of the above. You can’t say cooking isn’t creative…

The end result isn’t the prettiest, but the taste was really good, and that’s even if I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter: I forgot to add a green chilli, and I doubled the amount of other ingredients so I could have a larger batch… except for baking powder and spices, which I wasn’t quite confident about (specially baking powder-it’s got a great ability to ruin things if you add too much of it). Also, their recipe doesn’t mention sesame seeds in the list of ingredients, but then it does when it asks you to add sesame seeds to the mix. And you’re left wondering: “WHICH sesame seeds?!”

The fantastic garlic kick reminded me a bit to the cod croquettes which my grandma used to make (except you can’t find fishbones, yay!). It even made me think that maybe it could also work if adding pine nuts, like in my grandma’s recipe. After all, there are very few things in the world that will not be improved by adding pine nuts to them.

They combined well with salad, as they can be a bit dry on their own.

Falafel with salad

Maybe a yoghurt and cucumber sauce could work too, but we didn’t have any on the fridge. Instead, I tried making a very purist allioli, with just garlic and olive oil, but it didn’t work, mostly because I was using a blender instead of a pestle and mortar. Something to experiment with some other day. That said, the garlic and oil sauce was great anyway—and we felt very confident that no vampire would get close to our household, haha!

Honey & co don’t recommend reheating, but I did warm them slightly on the microwave the next day before placing them on top of my salad and they were still very nice.

A final warning: this dish is a bit laborious; chopping the ingredients can be tiring if your blender decides to get temperamental (as mine did), and you might need to do it in small batches so it takes longer than it should. I’d personally advise making this on a day where you can take your time and not fall asleep over the bowl. Or getting a mega food processor and blitzing through the chickpeas in two nanoseconds (so to speak!) πŸ™‚

Thai (?) green curry

Thai green curry

Note: I’m not from Thailand, so please excuse any horrible things I did to your (sort of) national dish πŸ™‚

I had a horrible day/week, and was really upset by various things that had happened, so I decided the best way to leave that behind me was to focus on cooking something comforting.

Somehow I thought of green curry, but I had not cooked this in a very long time—would I still remember how to do it?

For extra challenge, I decided to try and make it vegan, which is not very hard as the only ingredient from animal source is the chicken. I replaced it with tofu instead. Done!

Continue reading “Thai (?) green curry”

Roasted artichokes

Artichokes in salad
Artichokes in salad

We sourced a few good looking artichokes at Natoora and I couldn’t resist turning them into a lightweight dinner! This style of dinner is very common around my home area as it won’t have you digesting heavy stuff for hours, and so you can sleep well.

Preparation

  1. First chop their stems, and also a few of the outside leaves (as they’re hard, have spiky bits and that’s not nice). Then cut them in halves:

    Artichoke sliced in half
    Artichoke sliced in half
  2. Put them all on a pan, add some oil and salt, and set them to a high heat
  3. Wait until they got some colour in one side. Then turn them around and brown them on that side too. If they’re cooking too fast and you fear they’ll burn, reduce the heat!
  4. Add some water – about a centimeter tall, cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let the artichokes soften in the water
    Artichokes roasting in the pan
  5. Once the water has evaporated, check the artichokes are soft (I just “lightly” punch them with a fork). If not, you can either add a bit more water and repeat the process, or keep them on a very low heat for longer.
  6. Done! Ready to eat!

In this case I served them with some escarole salad, tomatoes and cucumber, and just a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It is way more filling that you’d imagine, because the artichokes are so full of flavour, and the other vegetables were really high quality so it was a really sensational dish πŸ™‚

Other ways to serve them:

  • with toasted bread and olive oil. I would prefer wholemeal baguette style bread, but any good bread could work.
  • with an omelette (possibly a simple egg one)
  • with pan fried chicken breasts

Rambling time

Escaroles seem quite uncommon in the UK, but I grew up eating them during winter months, and I miss them, so I was very excited that Puntarelle & co had them in stock. The taste is quite different from your every day lettuce: peppery, spicy, a bit sour. I figured liking them is certainly an acquired taste because my very English partner didn’t like them at all! πŸ˜†

In the same vein, finding good artichokes in London’s markets is quite the challenge. Forget supermarkets—I’ve never, ever, been able to find artichokes which were not weeeeell past their best times.

But it’s hard to tell from the outside because to know for sure you’d need to slice open the artichoke and see if it is still a bud, all green and undeveloped, and it has not started to turn into the bloom before the flower (which is what artichokes are, after all).

One way to test this is to gently squeeze the artichokes and see how they respond. They should be flexible; if they’re stiff it’s too late. But sometimes it’s hard to say…

Another way of testing is to use your nose: fresh artichokes have a very ‘green’ and characteristic smell. But this doesn’t work with supermarkets because the produce has been in a fridge for so long it just doesn’t smell of anything anymore. And shops tend to be cold as well, which doesn’t help with releasing aromas. So you could only use this in fresh markets.

When the flower develops, the “core” of the artichoke turns into stems and it’s absolutely vile to eat because it’s like eating spiky hairs that make a ball at the end of your throat. Urghhh. It’s also incredibly difficult to slice, as it hardens. I’ve lost count of the amount of artichokes I’ve had to throw away after I tried to salvage some of their contents 😱

It is a complex problem that feeds itself:

  1. They are still a ‘weird’ vegetable and the demand is pretty low, so the food chain doesn’t prioritise getting good quality artichokes fast to the UK. And then they spend way too long in the shelves
  2. When people buy them and find a disgusting vile old artichoke they never buy them again, and so the demand keeps being low
  3. Back to step one 😭

Still, I keep trying to find decent ones, because they can be so delicious!

Amusingly enough in Spain you can not only easily find artichokes, but even the stalks of the plant, called pencas, which are eaten in stews and salads. Nothing goes to waste!

Blood oranges

We got these from Natoora at the Spa Terminus market. They’re Sicilian and so very nicely sweet and citric!

Blood oranges
Blood oranges

I must have been five years old the first time I encountered a blood orange “in the wild”. I was tasked with helping to make orange juice at home, and blood oranges are not always very obviously bloody from the outside. When I cut the orange and I found the “blood” I immediately panicked, thinking I had cut myself!

I started yelling and calling for help. Obviously my mum was very alarmed, but she quickly determined that it was all fine; I hadn’t cut myself and the orange was “normal”, but I still drank that juice with lots of suspicions πŸ€”

Courghetti with tomato and onion sauce

Courghetti with tomato and onion sauce

This is fun to make (spiralising things is so much fun), and fairly quick to prepare. Plus it’s quite filling AND lightweight – courgettes are basically water!

You will need a spiraliser, or you can buy pre-made courghetti, although I’ve never tried those and I’ve no idea how bad or good they are!

Ingredients (for two people)

  • Two medium sized courgettes (about 15 cm length)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • One 400g tomato tin
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese and butter (leave out if vegan)

Preparation

  1. Start by washing and spiralising the courgettes. I make one pile per courgette, as it makes it easier to separate the portions later
  2. Peel and chop the onion and garlic cloves
  3. Put oil on a pan, and start frying the onion and garlic
  4. In parallel, wash and chop the parsley, and add it to the pan as well
  5. Once the onion is pretty soft, move everything to one side, like in the picture
  6. Add some more oil, and set to a very high heat
  7. When the pan is very hot, add the contents of the tomato tin to it, and fry on a very high heat for about 1-2 minutes or until you think things are going to burn! Stir frequently during this time. The goal is to get the tomato to lose its acidity
  8. Now reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes
  9. Optional: add a dash of butter now to get a deeper body. Mix it well until it dissolves.
  10. Slowly add about 200ml of warm water to compensate for the evaporation.
  11. Add a tablespoon of paprika, and mix well
  12. About 10 minutes in the simmering, try a bit of the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste, mix well and try the sauce again. It might still be a bit acidic, but don’t add sugar – just wait for longer!
  13. Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, you might need to wait for longer. It usually pays off to wait as the flavour gets more developed and interesting. So you might need more than 20 minutes.
  14. Once the sauce is ‘done’, turn the heat off.
  15. To cook the courghetti, add some oil to another pan, and set on a very high heat.
  16. When the pan is very hot, add a ‘pile’ of courghetti, and stir continuously. We don’t want anything to get stuck, and we want the cooking to be homogeneous. We also don’t want the courghettis to get too soft, so that’s why we need the heat to be very high, so they cook outside but not too much inside. If the heat is too low, they will start releasing water, and the result will be too “liquidy”.
  17. Once one pile is cooked, place on a deep bowl, and go to step 15 to cook the next, until all have been cooked.
  18. Pour the sauce on top of the cooked courghetti
  19. Optional: add a good dose of grated Parmesan cheese
  20. Add some pepper
  21. Optional: add a dash of the best olive oil you have

Tricks and tips

I used this smoked paprika my mum brought me from Extremadura, a region in West Spain, renowned by the quality of their paprika!

Smoked paprika

If you have the chance to shop at a Spanish grocers, “PimentΓ³n de la Vera” is the type of paprika you want to look for.

Also, depending on your spiraliser, you might get very long ‘courghetti’ so it might be interesting to cut the piles a few times with scissors before cooking them, so they’re not like 3 meters long and impossible to eat with a fork.