A granite pestle and a mortar trigger the best qualities in spices, so do hardships to us. We rise as better human beings as we are forced to grow out of our comfort zone.
As unpleasant as COVID-19 could be, it is also a rare opportunity to slow down and reflect on our own journey and re-set priorities with an altered mindset.
The life that we took for granted, becomes so precious, the same notion applies to friendships, family, gifted talents, etc. The list is pretty long!
This world-engulfing and unprecedented madness, is coinciding with Lent, which mandates in the Coptic Orthodox (Egyptian Christian) faith an austere plant-based diet for a total of 55 days. Personally speaking, the lent timing couldn’t be any better.
Spirituality does help when all others fail! Accepting what we can’t change is a benign approach that enhances our positivity to reverse the harm.
Practically speaking, the plant-based diet has spared me an unnecessary weight gain during our quarantine. That said, I still enjoy eating healthy vegan food that detoxes my body, mind, and soul.
This week, to salvage some greens in the fridge which were on the verge of wilting, I made falafel (Middle Eastern vegan patties). The falafel prep kept busy my stay-at-home kids for a record time of 30 minutes, as I entrusted them with separating the leaves of aromatic greens from the stems.
Avoiding food waste in my house, especially during our quarantine, makes me feel much better facing overwhelming uncertainty and rumors of food shortage in the near future.
My all-time reference to exquisite falafel, is “Mohamed Ahmed”, a hole in a wall falafel and foul (stewed fava) place, that served its signature sandwiches to an army of clients day in day out.
His puffy falafel had a superior crunchy exterior and a soft, creamy interior loaded with spices and aromatic herbs.
His falafel sandwiches (made of split broad beans) came in warm, freshly, baked pita bread, lined with zesty tahini paste, piled high with pickles, lettuce cucumber, and juicy tomatoes, and stuffed with sizzling falafel patties.
It was more than 25 years ago when I last made it to that Falafel mecca. That said, its falafel taste dented my memory forever.
A few years ago, one morning, The food section in The Guardian held the best surprise I could ever wish for. “Mohamed Ahmed”, the humble Falafel place made news in the British newspaper with an article titled “The world’s best falafel recipe comes from Egypt”.
I didn’t religiously follow the recipe, yet I lightly adapted it. I added more herbs, coarsely crushed coriander, cumin, and fennel. Given my growing infatuation with Asian staples, I couldn’t help but adding two of my favorite ingredients— Match powder and Singaporean Chilicuka (chili paste).
The matcha amped the vibrancy of the green interior of the falafel, while the chili paste infused the falafel dough with just the right amount of heat.
If you never tried falafel made of split fava beans (instead of the Levantine chickpeas ones), I strongly recommend that you try this recipe.
Use your food processor to turn the broad beans to a paste. The best way to test the falafel dough is to press it between your fingers and palm. If it holds itself, then it is good to go.
Falafel is an excellent freezer food. After you make the dough you either freeze it as is, or you shape the falafel patties (see the notes below).
When you will finally have your first bite of those flavors bombs, you will be pleasantly surprised by its textures. The broad beans lend an unmatched softness to the falafel that is fairly different from the chickpeas’ ones that are ubiquitous in the Levant.
Watch the step by step video here.
Recipe inspired by “Mohamed Ahmed” Falafel Place
Makes 24 to 30 falafel patties
- 750 grams of split fava beans
- 1/4 cup olive oil, or more if needed
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 1 cup dill leaves
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1/4 cup of mint
- 1 cup of spring onions
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon of fennel, cumin, coriander coarsely crushed in a pestle
- 2 1/2teaspoons of sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin
- 1 1/2tablespoon of ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons chili paste, (such as harissa or Asian Chilickua)
- 1 tablespoon of matcha powder, optional
- Salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili paste, (such as harissa or Asian Chilickua)
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1/4 cup of sesame, or more if needed
- Canola or grape seeds oil for frying
- Prep the split fava beans. Soak the split fava beans in cold water for 8 to 10 hours and change its water two to three times.
- Make the falafel dough. In a food processor, add half the quantity of the fava beans and turn on the machine. Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time. Keep the machine running until the fava beans turn into a paste. Empty the food processor container into a clean deep mixing bowl and repeat the same steps with the second half of the fava beans. Add the herbs to the second batch of fava beans and blitz until the herbs and fava beans become a homogenous paste. Add the second batch of fava beans to the first one in the same mixing bowl. Add the spices, the matcha, and the hot pepper paste. Mix by hand until all is incorporated well. Keep in the fridge to chill at least one hour.
- Shape the falafel disks. Use a medium ice cream scoop (2- inch approx.) to scoop the falafel dough into equal portions. Roll the soft dough between the palm of your two hands (see video above). When you shape all the falafel balls, flatten them slightly and dredge them in sesame seeds to coat their surfaces.
- Fry the falafel. Heat the oil to 350° F. Carefully, drop the fafalel in the hot oil. Don’t cram the frying pan. Remove the falafel from the oil when it is puffy and all golden. Transfer the fried falafel to a tray lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Serve hot with wedges or halves of hot pita bread, tahini sauce, and an assortment of pickles.
- Taste the falafel dough before frying to adjust the seasoning.
- Never cram the frying pan with many falafel balls.
- If you make a big batch, you can freeze the falafel dough in a ziplock and keep it in the freezer for three months. The other freezing option is to shape them into balls, arrange them on a tray, freeze the tray for a couple of hours. Remove the frozen balls and keep them in a ziplock in the freezer.