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.ย  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 ๐Ÿ˜œ

“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!) ๐Ÿ™‚

Chickpea omelette

This morning, I was wondering what to have for breakfast when I remembered I had a bunch of chickpeas leftover from yesterday’s dish: rice with Swiss chard. And I had an idea: why not have a chickpea omelette?

Like that dish, this is also a very economical dish, and quite easy to make. The hardest skill required is to know how to flip the omelette without breaking it, although I gave some tips for that on the herb omelette recipe.

Ingredients (for 2-3 portions)

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Parsley
  • Half a 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • Olive oil

Preparation

Takes about 45 minutes.

  1. Mash the chickpeas using a fork or a mashing accessory
  2. Peel and thinly chop the onion
  3. And the garlic clove
  4. Place some olive oil on a pan, set on a high heat and start frying the onion and garlic
  5. Crack the eggs and pour them on a bowl, and whisk them
  6. Wash and chop the parsley, add to the bowl
  7. Add a touch of salt
  8. Add the chickpeas to the bowl and mix everything vigorously so there are no lumps of chickpea paste – this is how it’d look like:Chickpea omelette mixture
  9. When the onion and garlic are fried (onion soft, garlic golden), add a touch more oil to the pan and then add the egg, chickpea and parsley mixture to the pan, and mix everything together
  10. Set to a high heat, and cook the first half
  11. Then using the tricks on this post, flip the omelette and cook the other side
  12. Serve and enjoy!

This is a dish which is often cooked with the leftovers of a popular stew called “cocido”, instead of using tinned chickpeas or specifically cooked chickpeas. That makes the omelette even tastier, as the veggies have all the flavour from the stew! Plus also the tinned chickpeas are a bit too hard for this dish and it takes longer to mash them.

When using stew leftover, you end up with a more colourful dish as it might contain all sorts of vegetables: potato, carrot, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage… and it’s fairly common to actually make vegetable croquettes with these.

It just occurred to me that this could also work very nicely with a touch of spice on it to add some ‘heat’ – perhaps some red chilli.

The other great thing about this dish is its versatility: you can have it for breakfast, or in your lunch box (as it keeps and warms up nicely), or even for dinner – it’s a very common Monday dinner (as you might have had the stew on Sunday).

Arroz con acelgas (rice with Swiss chard)

This is an extremely cheap, easy to cook and comforting rice dish, very typical from the region I’m from. You can make it more “liquidy” or drier, depending on your tastes.

I used this Spanish recipe as reference, but altered a few things. Thanks, Kiko!

Ingredients

  • 140 g of round rice (paella or bomba varieties)
  • A bunch of Swiss chard
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium tomato (or a bunch of cherry tomatoes)
  • 100 g of cooked chickpeas (about half a 400g can, drained)
  • Paprika (not smoked)
  • Olive oil

This makes about 3 generous portions, or 4 if smaller. But it’s very easy to stretch it for more people by adding more water or rice.

Preparation

Takes about 45 minutes (15 min preparing, 30 min cooking).

You’ll need a big pot; cast iron pots (‘le Creuset’ style) are a very good option, although in Spain it’s often cooked on earthenware, but it’s a bit hard to find good quality affordable earthenware implements in the UK.

  1. Peel the garlic cloves, but don’t slice them
  2. Peel and chop the onion, it doesn’t need to be very finely
  3. Wash and chop the tomato
  4. Carefully wash the chard and discard “ugly bits” (we’re not the only ones who like chard – worms love them too!), then chop it in pieces of about 2cm wide
  5. Add oil to the pot, set on a high heat and fry the garlic and onion on itChopped onion
  6. Add the chard and fry it until it starts to soften (you should be stirring everything so nothing gets stuck or burnt)
  7. Add the tomato and fry it too
  8. Add a tablespoon of paprika, mix everything together
  9. Add the chickpeas
  10. Add about 600 ml of water for a dry version, or more like 800ml for a soup finish. Add a pinch of salt.
  11. Bring to a boil
  12. Reduce the heat, place a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes. This will extract all the great flavours from the vegetables.
  13. Add the rice (you don’t need to wash it; the starch will help us give a good depth to the dish). Stir around to make sure it’s evenly distributed.
  14. Optional: add food colouring. You could add saffron, turmeric, or the classic cheap version that we use in Valencia often – a spices mix for paella (often called “Preparado para paella”).
  15. Cook on a low-medium heat for about 20 minutes, with the lid on and slightly ajar to let the steam off, but don’t leave the pot unattended because…
    1. There might be a burst of boiling water come up and you don’t want it to overflow, asphyxiate your stove and cause a gas spill
    2. Or the rice might absorb all the water and run dry
    3. So if need be, add more water (specially if you want it to be more like a soup)
  16. Towards the 15 minutes mark, you want to start checking that the rice is cooked, and if that’s the case, turn the heat off! We aren’t cooking congee here.
  17. Serve on deep dishes or bowls, if having soup. And enjoy the smugness of having cooked a cheap and comforting dish! ๐Ÿ˜

How to tell when rice is cooked?

  1. If you take a grain and it’s soft, but you can still feel some ‘crunch’ inside when you bite it: it’s still raw. Check again in a couple of minutes.
  2. If the grain is still sort of cylindrical and keeping the original raw shape, but inflated, and you feel no ‘solid crunch’ when biting it: it’s cooked!
  3. If the grain is starting to expand like fluffy clouds and dissolving in the soup: TURN THE HEAT OFF IMMEDIATELY AND REPENT. You’ll do better next time.

This dish is quite forgiving if the rice is slightly overcooked and you’re aiming for a soup form; but under or overcooking would be Capital Sins when aiming for a dry form.

Alternatives

  • If you can’t find paella rice, replace it with risotto or arborio rice. Basically you want rice that can absorb liquid.
  • If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you could replace them with some tinned tomatoes, about half of a 400g tin.
  • If you can’t find Swiss chard you can use spinach (or maybe kale?!)
  • You can replace chickpeas with other legumes you have handy. It’s about the protein: imagine you’re a peasant and need energy to do your labour!
  • You could also use good vegetable stock instead of water, if you want extra flavour, although this dish doesn’t really need it. But maybe you have the stock there and do not know what to do with it.

As you can see, this is a very accommodating dish.

Trivia

This is often eaten during Lent, as it is vegan! Although we didn’t call it vegan at the time. We just said it did not have meat. When Lent falls in February, and a cold spell happens, it’s very nice to eat a comforting warm soupy rice dish.

It’s also meant to be “poor people’s food”, which is not quite surprising given the ingredients. Swiss chard grow very well in the region, and you can even find them growing semi-wildly in the borders of built up areas nowadays.

I distinctly remember a schooltrip to a chapel on top a little hill that overlooks my hometown. We heard the teachers squeakingย  with excitement as they realised that one side of the hill was covered with sort of wild chard, and it just took them a few moments to cave in to temptation and start foraging for the prettiest leaves, declaring:

Esto, ยกpara el hervido de esta noche!

Or “this, for tonight’s boiled dish”.

And we did what children do: imitate the adults. We started grabbing leaves too, thinking we were doing great. My grandmother was extremely bemused when I showed up with a random selection of weeds and worm-devoured Swiss chard leaves! ๐Ÿ˜‚

For the curious in you, read an explanation of what this boiled dish is!

Chickpea salad

I was feeling really lazy today so I decided to use a can of chickpeas instead of cooking lentils to prepare tomorrow’s lunch box. I feel that chickpeas go really well with cumin seeds.

Preparation time

I’d say 15 minutes. This is super easy to toss together as the ingredients don’t need much preparation; it’s just a matter of washing and slicing.

Ingredients

  • Chickpeas (obviously); you can make about 2 salads with one 400 g tin
  • Salad leaves – any type you like, although I prefer a crunchy sweet romaine for this
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet red pepper (raw)
  • Olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Cumin seeds ~about half a teaspoon
  • Pine nuts
  • The best olive oil you can find
  • Salt
  • Pepper

of course, feel free to add or remove whatever you like or dislike… this is a salad, not a cake! For example, remove the feta cheese if you want to make this vegan.

Preparation

  1. Wash and shake the water off the ingredients
  2. Slice lettuce in manageable sizes but don’t go too thin or it becomes too bland
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half (if they’re cherry), or a bite sized portion if they’re bigger
  4. Slice cucumber, red pepper…
  5. Add olives and feta to taste
  6. If you have mortar and pestle, you could smash the cumin seeds a bit as that opens up the flavour, otherwise I often don’t even bother and just add them as they are. Be careful to not to add too many or you’ll end up annoyed by their “crunchiness”
  7. Sprinkle with pine nuts if that’s your thing
  8. Generously add olive oil
  9. And add salt and pepper to taste
  10. Mix everything nicely!

Note: If you’re preparing this for the next day, don’t add the oil yet, or it will make everything mushy. Wait until when you’re actually going to eat the salad to then add the olive oil.

Other options

This also goes nicely with some sliced parsley, if you have it handy.

Also, if your partner is on a business trip (like mine) and you really want some kick in your taste buds, you could [sort of finely] slice a garlic clove and mix it with the salad at the time you add the olive oil. You might need to add a touch more salt to make the garlic really stand out.

It really makes the whole experience quite… intense. I really like the combination of cumin seeds, olive oil and chickpeas with the garlic.

I only do this when I’m home alone, and I’d never bring a garlic salad to the office out of respect for my coworkers. Who knows, someone might be a vampire and my post-salad breath would knock them out! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Who wants to ingest garlic pills to boost your immunity when you can just eat a garlic clove? ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ”ฅ