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Felafel/Falafel--Cook-Off 30

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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 08:04 PM

Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index.

This cook-off focuses on felafel. I've enjoyed fine felafel here in the US and overseas, but I have literally no idea how to make this, the national street food of at least a handful of Middle Eastern countries. Several people who have recommended this cook-off did so because, while they felt they had some clues, they didn't really have a consistently successful recipe or method. Sounds like a good cook-off topic, eh?

There are a few topics on the felafel matter, including this one on tips and tricks, an older topic that finds more woes than techniques, and this preparation topic, How Do You Like Your Falafel? I also found this recipe by Joan Nathan, which seems like it might be useful.

But what do I know? Not much, I'll tell you. Time to chime in, you!
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#2 lexy

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 05:26 AM

I'm a big fan of this falafel recipe. It's dead easy to make, and you can freeze extra patties for a fast supper.
Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

#3 Pontormo

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 08:43 AM

Falafel is the reason I finally broke down and bought a Cuisinart since it is a pain and a half to make with a standard blender--or without a really good mortar and pestle and the arm muscles of Angela Bassett. There is nothing like warm, fresh home-made falafel!

I like Madhur Jaffrey's recipe in her early vegetarian cookbook on Eastern/Asian food, though I'd enjoy hearing from Middle-Eastern members or sources.

Less than authentic: fine when prepared in cast-iron skillet, not deep-fried. Excellent with red onion, hot sauce, a cucumber-yogurt sauce and cornichons.

In this case, you HAVE TO SOAK THE BEANS!!!! :raz:
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The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

#4 Pam R

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 08:46 AM

I haven't made falafel from scratch in many years. I'm up for the challenge.

What's the preference - soaking dried chickpeas or using canned? Obviously canned is easier (less planning involved) - but does it make a noticeable difference with the flavour?

#5 Pontormo

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:01 AM

What's the preference - soaking dried chickpeas or using canned? Obviously canned is easier (less planning involved) - but does it make a noticeable difference with the flavour?

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I make falafel from raw, soaked beans. They're ground fine without cooking. Texture's important. Canned wouldn't work--at least in my recipe or ones based on the same methods.

Edited by Pontormo, 27 February 2007 - 09:02 AM.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.
The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

#6 Pam R

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:06 AM

I think raw, soaked would be better - but I've read that some people use canned. I'm still interested in hearing if anybody used them.

I need to go pick the brain of the owner of the Falafel Place down the street from me . . . his falafel are amazing. :rolleyes:

#7 lovebenton0

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:40 AM

i was thinking only yesterday how much i was craving falafel. one of the few things i will fry and say who cares. and with fresh baked pita... great cook-off idea. :biggrin:
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#8 Eilen

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 11:38 AM

This is exciting--I love making felafel but I've yet to find a recipe that works for me. My patties are always sticky and they very nearly fall apart on me. The flavor is great, I've got the seasonings exactly how I want them, but I'd like to work on getting a nice crisp exterior.

Pam, I have been using canned chickpeas and maybe this is my problem. I'll have to get dried beans and try it as Pontormo suggests.

Does anyone use a mix of beans, or just the chickpeas?

#9 deltadoc

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 11:43 AM

I've tried several times to make good falafel. Even bought a falafel ejector tool from the Holyland Deli.

Tried making them from the following:

1. Canned Garbanzos - fell apart in deep fryer
2. Canned Garbanzos and Canned Fava beans - fell apart in the deep fryer
3. Middle Eastern mixes (2 different ones) - dry, didn' t fall apart but didn't taste very good either
4. Dried ones that I ground in a Vita-mix, then soaked. They were passing fair.
5. Dried whole ones that I soaked - didn't soak them long enough! One would have thought 12 hours would have been long enough!
6. Dried whole ones with boiling water poured over them, soaked overnight. Added a little baking soda like my Lebanese cook friend suggested. Had lots of garbanzo skins rise to the top.

Just haven't ever been able to get the kind of taste from those served at the Holyland in Minneapolis. Crunchy on the outside, greenish in the middle, moist but not soggy. Taste outstanding!

doc

#10 lexy

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 05:07 AM

Pam, I have been using canned chickpeas and maybe this is my problem.  I'll have to get dried beans and try it as Pontormo suggests.

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I've tried a recipe using canned chickpeas, which used flour to make them solid enough to fry, which made sticky and chewy felafels. Use dried, soaked, uncooked chickpeas and you get a nice texture that holds together when you fry.
Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

#11 Pam R

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 08:36 AM

Dried soaked it is. But it looks like I can't attempt this until next week. Will get all the necessary parts purchased and ready to go.

#12 nduran

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 02:56 AM

A word of caution on using canned ingredients and flour: the falafel can explode. Literally.

If you prepare a mixture that contains a great deal of moisture and then attempt to get it to hold together in the oil with flour, what will end up happening is the outer portions in contact with the oil will form a hard shell around the still-moist and very loosely bound interior. As the temperature of this interior continues to rise, the moisture will desperately want to get out of there, and you've basically got giant popcorn kernels sitting in a pot full of dangerously hot oil. I've seen the uncooked centers shoot up to three feet in the air of their own accord, leaving their charred, hollow husks behind. If one of these hit you in the face, you'd be in serious shape, and even if they don't explode, the results are still gummy and disgusting.

Always, always, always use soaked dried chickpeas and fava beans, and regardless of what the recipe says, don't put a whole onion in all at once. Add it bit by bit and back off once the mixture starts getting so moist that it drips when you squeeze a handful of it tightly.

It's also important to use olive oil for the frying. Peanut oil or your average bottle of Wesson will technically work, but the flavor just won't be there. The oil should be just deep enough to cover about 3/4 of each little lump, and I personally prefer to stick to small batches of 3-4 at a time to avoid greasy product. If you've got a giant fryer with a great thermostat on it, by all means, push the envelope.

I have had extremely good luck with the following recipe, though the quantities of the seasonings are not set in stone and may be adjusted up or down to taste. I honestly don't even measure most of them myself.

1 cup dried fava beans (soaked)
3/4 cup dried chickpeas (soaked)
1 white onion
1/3 cup minced parsley
2 tbsps cilantro
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 tsp ground cumin

Edited by nduran, 02 March 2007 - 03:22 AM.


#13 Milagai

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 07:55 AM

Thanks for the tip on soaked dried uncooked chickpeas.

Anyone had luck baking rather than frying the felafels?

TIA

Milagai

#14 FoodMan

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 08:29 AM

Here is my recipe for Falafel from the class I wrote about Lebanese cooking for eGCI. I use it everytime and the results are always great. I think the key is the proper ratio of chickpeas to dried fava beans.

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#15 helenjp

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 10:43 PM

I used the recipe quoted by Boaziko (who says it is GC++ recipe from the Middle East forum) in the "tricks" thread quoted up top

"My recipe of Falafel is from the time I worked at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
The Egyptian chef in charge of all Oriental cuisine (apart from the Chinese off course) gave it to me.

I found it very good:

½ Kilo (1 pound) Dried Chickpeas
1 White Onion
½ Kilo (1 pound) Leeks
Half of the volume of the leeks – cilantro or coriander leaves
6 Tbsp Coriander seeds (Don’t mix them with white pepper corns)
2 Tbsp Ground Cumin
Sesames seeds
Salt

1) Soak the chickpeas for two nights in water, changing the water twice a day.
2) Chop the onion, leeks and coriander leaves.
3) Grind all ingredients; if too dry add some water.
4) Heat the oil up to 180C (= 356F)
5) Before frying roll the Falafel balls in sesames seeds"

I used 1 tab salt (1 tsp of that went on the finely chopped coriander leaves and stems, which I squeezed before adding to the mix).

This reecipe has no garlic, so please feel free to add it.

Ended up using roughly the amount of onion/coriander given: by weight, 1 part dried chickpeas to 1 scant part total vegetables.

I soaked the chickpeas for about 40 hours I guess. Ground them fairly coarsely, but a finer grind, nearer a "sandy" texture, might have been better - I wasn't sure the beans were really cooked after frying.

The recipe made at least 80 walnut-sized felafel, using a 15ml measuring spoon. They need to be fried till richly brown to cook the beans throughout. The mixture sheds moisture, so there is little advantage in forming all the balls ahead of time - they were easier to handle when I formed 6 as the first 6 were frying (in a wok).

I tried rolling them in sesame seeds, and also without sesame, but there was no big difference - the unrolled balls were no more fragile - and the mixture shed most of the seeds while frying. But I had heaps of cheap sesame seeds, so the visual advantage was worth it.

I tried adding a little flour, but the mixture is extremely sensitive to the addition of flour - you can immediately detect the doughier, pastier texture if you eat a bean-only felafel and then one with flour. The felafel with flour take longer to brown, although they were easier to handle. The bean-only felafel are best slid gently into the oil with a mesh skimmer. For 500g dried beans, I wouldn't add more than 1 or at most 2 tablespoons of flour.

Egg: you could add 1 egg to the total mix made from 500g dried beans. Again, the texture became marginally more doughnut-like, but the egg also added flavor. Although the mix was wetter, it was more robust, and could be dropped into the oil.

#16 nduran

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 10:45 PM

Anyone had luck baking rather than frying the felafels?

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Well I'm sure you could bake them if you really wanted to, but you'll never get the crunch they're meant to have that way.

#17 Pontormo

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 10:50 AM

Here is my recipe for Falafel from the class I wrote about Lebanese cooking for eGCI. I use it everytime and the results are always great. I think the key is the proper ratio of chickpeas to dried fava beans.

View Post

Elie: I'm curious about the fact that when falafel gained more wide-spread appeal among those of us without Middle-Eastern roots, the vegetarian cookbooks that helped popularize it always list chickpeas/garbanzo beans without ever referring to fava beans. At least, that's what I recall. Yet I see your recipe actually has a 3:1 ratio of dried fava beans to dried chickpeas.

Would you--or anyone else--happen to know if falalfel recipes differ largely due to regional origins? Were fava beans excluded from vegetarian recipes in American cookbooks of the 70s and 80s simply because they were not as widely available as chickpeas, or...?

* * *
I think I've seen falafel recipes calling for chickpea flour which I have in the freezer for other uses. Since I like the coarser texture of ground soaked beans, I've never tried using the flour instead.

* * *
Milagai: As I said above, you can use a heavy cast iron skillet instead of a deep fryer, heating it before you begin cooking. Woks also work, though your batches would have to be smaller; it's too time-consuming for feeding a crowd but perfect if you want to keep the mixture in the fridge for a week and fry a few up when the spirit moves.

Falafel turns out best when you are generous with the cooking oil, letting it form at least a thin layer that rises a bit up the sides of the pan for the sake of a crust.

I use the oven to reheat patties that were cooked earlier in the week.
"Viciousness in the kitchen.
The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

#18 Priscilla

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 11:06 AM

I love felafel. Felafel was, in fact, what propelled me into finding a local Middle Eastern market back in the 1980s when I was just a little cook, which of course turned out to be fortuitous beyond felafel.

Pontormo, I was just going to punt the question about ceci flour, which was what the proprietess of the aforementioned market put me onto when I asked her for felafel advice, highlightng the timesaving aspect. The ones I used to make acc. to her directions were not bad at all. Whole beans taste better, however.

I'd be interested in any info about the relative use of whole beans vs. bean flour in re felafel.

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#19 boaziko

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 11:59 AM

Hi All,
That is just great, the Falafel recipe my brother (GC) brought back from London made it to Chiba, Japan.

Keep 'em frying !

Do not forget to try anf find the freshest possible Tahina. (from Nablus is best!)

Boaziko




I used the recipe quoted by Boaziko (who says it is GC++ recipe from the Middle East forum) in the "tricks" thread quoted up top

"My recipe of Falafel is from the time I worked at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
The Egyptian chef in charge of all Oriental cuisine (apart from the Chinese off course) gave it to me.

I found it very good:

½ Kilo (1 pound) Dried Chickpeas
1 White Onion
½ Kilo (1 pound) Leeks
Half of the volume of the leeks – cilantro or coriander leaves
6 Tbsp Coriander seeds (Don’t mix them with white pepper corns)
2 Tbsp Ground Cumin
Sesames seeds
Salt

1) Soak the chickpeas for two nights in water, changing the water twice a day.
2) Chop the onion, leeks and coriander leaves.
3) Grind all ingredients; if too dry add some water.
4) Heat the oil up to 180C (= 356F)
5) Before frying roll the Falafel balls in sesames seeds"

I used 1 tab salt (1 tsp of that went on the finely chopped coriander leaves and stems, which I squeezed before adding to the mix).

This reecipe has no garlic, so please feel free to add it.

Ended up using roughly the amount of onion/coriander given: by weight, 1 part dried chickpeas to 1 scant part total vegetables.

I soaked the chickpeas for about 40 hours I guess. Ground them fairly coarsely, but a finer grind, nearer a "sandy" texture, might have been better - I wasn't sure the beans were really cooked after frying.

The recipe made at least 80 walnut-sized felafel, using a 15ml measuring spoon. They need to be fried till richly brown to cook the beans throughout. The mixture sheds moisture, so there is little advantage in forming all the balls ahead of time - they were easier to handle when I formed 6 as the first 6 were frying (in a wok).

I tried rolling them in sesame seeds, and also without sesame, but there was no big difference - the unrolled balls were no more fragile - and the mixture shed most of the seeds while frying. But I had heaps of cheap sesame seeds, so the visual advantage was worth it.

I tried adding a little flour, but the mixture is extremely sensitive to the addition of flour - you can immediately detect the doughier, pastier texture if you eat a bean-only felafel and then one with flour. The felafel with flour take longer to brown, although they were easier to handle. The bean-only felafel are best slid gently into the oil with a mesh skimmer. For 500g dried beans, I wouldn't add more than 1 or at most 2 tablespoons of flour.

Egg: you could add 1 egg to the total mix made from 500g dried beans. Again, the texture became marginally more doughnut-like, but the egg also added flavor. Although the mix was wetter, it was more robust, and could be dropped into the oil.

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#20 Rehovot

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 12:02 PM

From what I understand, fava beans are the basis of Egyptian-style falafel, while chickpeas are the basis of, for example, Israeli-style falafel. Where do other countries fall on the bean divide, though?

One Algerian cafe here in Prague uses fava beans (I think, judging by the stacks of canned fava in the back room). Different than what I'm used to, but definitely the best in town. :smile:

#21 Eilen

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 02:46 PM

So I ended up using the epicurious recipe that lexy linked above, except I halved it to serve two people.

I soaked the beans (in the fridge) for about 20 hours and ground them as finely as poss. in my f.p. I only used a little onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro, about 1/4 of what the original recipe called for, and left the spice amount virtually the same, mainly b/c I love cumin.

I let them dry for most of the afternoon, then formed them into patties right before frying in grapeseed oil.

These felafel were certainly better than my previous (kind-of pathetic) attempts. They fried up crisp on the outside and were nice and moist with plenty of cumin flavor on the inside. I don't have a camera else I would have taken pictures; they looked so nice and were not greasy at all.

I was happy with this method, but they certainly don't beat the best restaurant felafel I've had. Still, it's an improvement on what I had been doing. These'll do nicely when I get the craving again.

#22 nduran

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 03:16 PM

grapeseed oil


There's at least part of your problem. I've tried most every alternative and nothing tastes quite the same as olive oil.

#23 Kerry Beal

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 04:16 PM

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I used nduran's recipe above, but added regular paprica, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 tbsp cumin. I used Rachel Perlow's recipe for the garlic sauce from recipeGullet. I fried in a mixture of olive oil and sunflower oil.

I was fortunate to have been given a falafel former a few years back by a student of mine, we got talking food while I was driving her home from the clinic and she figured out it was about the only toy I didn't already have in my kitchen. Haven't used it until now. If someone knows the proper technique I'd love to hear it. The first couple I made like little discs, but then I started kind of mounding the falafel mixture, those looked more like what I'm accustomed to seeing.

I few minutes warming a pita in the skillet, a bit of salad dressed with the garlic sauce and I was good to go.

The texture was perfect, they were cooked through and the flavour was fabulous. This recipe is a keeper.

Only downside - serious garlic breath right now.

#24 mizducky

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 04:35 PM

Would you--or anyone else--happen to know if falalfel recipes differ largely due to regional origins?  Were fava beans excluded from vegetarian recipes in American cookbooks of the 70s and 80s simply because they were not as widely available as chickpeas, or...?

View Post

The Joan Nathan article linked to by Chris Amirault in the initial post gives some background on the fava bean vs. garbanzo bean preferences in felafel, including one bit of data I didn't know about before:

But favism, an inherited enzymatic deficiency occurring among some Jews--mainly those of Kurdish and Iraqi ancestry, many of whom came to Israel during the mid 1900s--proved potentially lethal, so all felafel makers in Israel ultimately stopped using fava beans, and chickpea felafel became an Israeli dish.

Repeating the link to that article (which also includes a recipe): clickie

If I find some time to do some felafel experiments, I will probably be one of the baked-not-fried guinea pigs. I'll have to finally break down and get myself a food processor, though. (Yep--I don't currently own a food processor. The Foodie Police are knocking at my door right now. :laugh: )

#25 nduran

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 04:59 PM

If someone knows the proper technique I'd love to hear it.  The first couple I made like little discs, but then I started kind of mounding the falafel mixture, those looked more like what I'm accustomed to seeing.


What I usually do is grab a small handful and toss it back and forth from palm to palm, squeezing ever-so-gently until I have a somewhat spherical little lump. I lay them out on a cutting board and then lower them into the oil gently with a large spatula. A few little hunks may set off on their own once they hit bottom, but they usually hold together pretty well.

Once they start browning fairly seriously I roll them around to cook their little green "heads", which I like to leave sticking out until they get up to temperature so as to provide an escape path for the steam. Also: watch your temperature. This isn't tempura, and I don't know what the smoking point of olive oil is, so use roughly the same amount of heat you would to fry an egg.

I find that they take much longer to brown up in the olive oil, but the taste is well worth it, and it's pretty easy to reclaim most of it for another go-round later in the week. I prefer to store the raw mix in the fridge/freezer to making them all at once and re-heating later.

Edited by nduran, 03 March 2007 - 05:12 PM.


#26 Smithy

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 05:27 PM

Only downside - serious garlic breath right now.

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..and the problem is? :laugh:

I'm glad to see this topic being taken on. I love falafel - the Egyptian variety, anyway - but have never tried to make it myself. I'm glad for the comments upthread about fava vs. chickpeas. The chickpeas threw me for a loop, since I was expecting fava recipes.

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#27 snowangel

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 07:34 PM

So, my question. If you use a combo of soaked favas and chickpeas and then grind them up, how are the soaked favas different than the soaked chickpeas (before cooking or mixing with anything else)? What do the favas lend?
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#28 Pam R

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 10:10 PM

I was happy with this method, but they certainly don't beat the best restaurant felafel I've had.  Still, it's an improvement on what I had been doing.  These'll do nicely when I get the craving again.

View Post

What did you serve them with? A good falafel ball should stand on it's own - but the condiments are part of the fun.

I was fortunate to have been given a falafel former a few years back by a student of mine, we got talking food while I was driving her home from the clinic and she figured out it was about the only toy I didn't already have in my kitchen.  Haven't used it until now.  If someone knows the proper technique I'd love to hear it.  The first couple I made like little discs, but then I started kind of mounding the falafel mixture, those looked more like what I'm accustomed to seeing.

I had a falafel former years ago - I never used it. I prefer using two spoons and forming little footballs (quenelles). :laugh:

The Joan Nathan article linked to by Chris Amirault in the initial post gives some background on the fava bean vs. garbanzo bean preferences in felafel, including one bit of data I didn't know about before:

But favism, an inherited enzymatic deficiency occurring among some Jews--mainly those of Kurdish and Iraqi ancestry, many of whom came to Israel during the mid 1900s--proved potentially lethal, so all felafel makers in Israel ultimately stopped using fava beans, and chickpea felafel became an Israeli dish.

Repeating the link to that article (which also includes a recipe): clickie

Interesting. I've never used fava beans and always think of falafel as chickpea based (yes, I know there are other ways to make them, but I'm familiar with the chickpea ones).

Don't everybody attack me - but I sell a couple of varieties of frozen falafel balls - I'll look at the ingredients list at work tomorrow. They're both from Israel, so I wonder if they'll list any beans other than chickpeas.

#29 nduran

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 01:40 AM

So, my question.  If you use a combo of soaked favas and chickpeas and then grind them up, how are the soaked favas different than the soaked chickpeas (before cooking or mixing with anything else)?  What do the favas lend?

View Post


Well they're two different legumes with two different tastes and textures. I don't know what else to tell you other than to give them a try and decide which you like best.

#30 Pam R

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 04:22 PM

So - one brand of frozen falafel has broad beans listed in the ingredients (same as fava, no?). The other just lists 'humus', which is strange, but I assume it's just garbanzos - it's the one I prefer.





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