Usually, when given a blog challenge to make something, I'm pretty obedient. That's how I learnt that I wasn't very good at cooking tofu in January. But this time, I'm afraid I'm going to break the rules.
You see, Florette challenged me to make a smoothie bowl with their new Smoothie Mix bags, and I just couldn't do it. Back when the smoothie trend was at its peak a couple of years ago, I was drinking a raspberry, apple, oat and almond milk smoothie for breakfast every morning and I completely ruined them for myself - I just got so sick of them. And then, a few weeks back, I was making falafel for the first time and broke my BlendActive smoothie maker. Turns out you need a food processor for falafel - anything else just can't handle those pesky chickpeas.
(On the day I broke my Blendactive, I actually had to pull on my new Spartoo trainers and speed up the A41 to pick up the food processor a couple of hours before our guests were due to arrive to grab it from where it was being stored at my Granny's. Not advisable. Bit stressful.)
So I thought it was fitting to post the recipe for my falafel instead, which is now a tried and tested recipe that's come out every time I've had guests for lunch. Which is a lot - everyone seems to want to see our new house, and we haven't even got round them all yet! When I had the family round a few weeks ago, I whipped them up in my Mum's ancient food processor alongside a perfect roast chicken, potato wedges and bowls upon bowls of delicious picky bits. Mmmm, picky bits. The best of all the bits.
Amongst those delicious bowls were the Florette Smoothie Mix bags. They're a mix of nutrient-rich greens like spinach, kale and chard, alongside beetroot, carrot and little sachets of healthy seeds and berries such as flax seeds and cranberries. The idea is that they're perfect in a smoothie, alongside some fruit and milk or juice, but I have to confess that they make a rather nice salad, too. The combo of vegetables is delicious, fresh and crispy and the little sachets of extras elevates your salad to something a little fancy. So while they're not intended for a salad, I'm into it.
Back to falafel. I've always thought of these as vegetarian meatballs - fabulous little balls of flavour that somehow manage to be vegan, gluten-free and not entirely terrible for you - even when they're fried. I like to whip up a double batch of them, fry them in batches and then freeze and reheat for guests and easy dinners. They are best fresh, when they're hot and crispy, but the reheated versions are pretty great too.
I use an adapted version of John Torode's BBC Good Food recipe - I cut back on the oil, leave out the parsley and leek and make smaller patties, which means I make about double his recommended 16 - more like 30-32. I also use a simpler method, and just chuck the whole lot in the food processor at once. If I can make things easier, I always will.
Easy peasy falafel (recipe adapted from here)
250g dried chickpeas
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 garlic cloves
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 small chilli, roughly chopped and deseeded
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp salt
30g chopped coriander
80g gram flour
Approx 50ml vegetable oil
Makes approx 32 falafel
1. Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of cold water for at least 8 hrs - overnight is good.
2. Drain the chickpeas, and add to the food processor along with all of the ingredients except the gram flour and the vegetable oil, and puree to a paste.
3. Add the gram flour and give the food processor another whiz until it's fully combined.
4. Remove the blades from your food processor, get out a couple of large plates and start making the falafel mixture into small patties, laying them out so they're ready to fry. I go by eye - around half a handful or so, basically about the same size as meatballs. Bigger or smaller is totally fine.
5. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat (do not use a high heat or they'll burn) and add a little oil (about enough to coat the bottom of the pan). I like to keep an eye on how much oil I use, so I add the full 50ml to a jug and then add a little at a time with each batch of falafel.
6. Add the patties to the pan a few at a time - I usually do about 6 at once - and fry for 2 minutes each side until golden and crisp.
7. Serve immediately, if you can, otherwise you can reheat in the oven for about 15 minutes (20 from frozen) before you're ready to eat them.
Serve with pitta bread, houmous, halloumi and a big group of hungry friends.