My husband is mad for Middle Eastern food. It’s his #1 choice and falafels are right up there with his all-time ‘last meal’ choices. So how could I resist Alice Zaslavsky’s fried green falafels? I know he can’t!
Do you know Alice – aka Alice in Frames? That bundle of irresistible energy and nous from Masterchef back-in-the-day and everywhere else ever since? Alice’s first cookbook In Praise of Veg was an absolute joy, so it’s little wonder that her second cookbook is called The Joy of Better Cooking. All the joy!
Alice will teach you the finer points of cooking what she calls ‘veg-forward’ food. I love veg-forward as a description as I think it’s how we should all be eating. Veggies first, then add in the extras.
I chose this green falafels recipe from an abundance of recipes that could have made the cut. I will hopefully share another Alice recipe in the upcoming weeks, because choosing just one was ay too tough. But the dear husband said falafels, so falafels it is.
You’ll see from the recipe below that Alice really does break cooking down into manageable steps. Throughout The Joy of Better Cooking she offers countless shortcuts and tips to make creating amazing food as foolproof as possible. For that reason, I think this book would make a fantastic gift for anyone who wants to be a better cook (you’ll find more cookbook matchups here: This year, everyone is getting the perfect cookbook for Christmas).
Enjoy these beauties and enjoy meeting Alice if you haven’t already. She’s a true gift.
Fried green falafels
From The Joy of Better Cooking by Alice Zaslavsky
I learned to make this falafel care of Emi from Egypt, a vivacious woman whose childhood in bustling Cairo could be contained within these fragrant footballs. Emi told me that once I tasted her falafel, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I was struck by her confidence, but thought I’d best reserve comment until we’d completed the demo of this very dish. Dear reader, it really is the best falafel recipe, and I’ll never make it any other way. Emi uses dried fava beans though, and if you can find them, I’d recommend you sub them in for the chickpeas — but I’m trying to remove every possible excuse in the book, so checkout chickpeas it is!
Makes about 30
Takes around 30 mins
oil, for deep-frying (I like grapeseed oil)
salt flakes, for sprinkling
2½ cups (500 g) dried chickpeas (see Subs), soaked in plenty of cold water overnight (see Shortcuts)
2 brown onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1½ tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons fine salt
1½ bunches of parsley, about 150 g (5½ oz), roughly chopped (see Tips)
1½ bunches of coriander (cilantro), about 150 g (5½ oz), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets, stalk roughly chopped
½ salad onion, finely diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 garlic clove, bruised
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
½ bunch of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
4 tablespoons plain yoghurt juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon tahini
To make the falafels, drain the soaked chickpeas and set aside.
Place the onion, ground spices, salt and half the parsley and fresh coriander (in that order) in a blender or food processor. Blitz until the onion starts to break down to a sludge, and the herb stalks have yielded to the blades. Add the chickpeas, bicarbonate of soda and the remaining herbs (reserving a handful for garnishing, if you like). Blend to the consistency of a smooth paste.
Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan with high-ish sides; 8–10 cm of oil should be plenty.
Use your tablespoon measure and another tablespoon to scoop and press the mixture into football-looking oblongs. Working in batches, gently drop them into the oil, from as close to the oil as possible, and let them fry for a minute before turning to do the other side. Sometimes they’ll stick to the bottom of the pan, but just let them sit there and they’ll float up with a little agitation from your spider skimmer or long-handled tongs. Fry for another 2 minutes or so, until each is the colour of leather. Drain each batch on paper towel, sprinkling with salt flakes while still hot for good measure.
While the falafels are frying, make your tabouleh. Pop the cauliflower florets in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water from a kettle. Let them sit for 5 minutes in the water to soften slightly. Combine the salad onion in a bowl with the tomatoes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jug, ready for pouring.
Blast your blender with water to dislodge any hop-ons, then pop in the cauliflower florets, garlic clove and olive oil. Blitz until the cauli is finely chopped to the size of couscous.
Toss the chopped cauli through the tomato mixture. Finish the tabouleh by stirring through the parsley and coriander just before serving. Drizzle with the yoghurt dressing to finish.
Serve the falafels in a pitta bread, with your babaghanoush, cauli tabouleh, pickled pink cauli and lemon wedges.
You can store any left-over mixture overnight in the fridge, or even freeze it. You can also fry the balls and freeze for reheating straight from frozen later.
Depending on what stalk-to-leaf ratio you have in your herbs, this falafel mixture might end up wetter than desired — which you’ll be able to tell immediately with the first falafel, as it will frizzle heaps and start to schmutz everywhere. Pop the mixture back into the food processor and blitz in two tablespoons of chickpea flour (besan). The added starch will help bind them right up. And never fear — any schmutz will make a great crumb on poached or soft-boiled eggs, or sprinkled over soups or dips.
I know you came here for a shorty, but please accept this cautionary tale instead. DO NOT attempt to make the recipe with tinned chickpeas. They are nowhere near starchy enough, and your falafel mixture will quite literally disappear before your very eyes as it fries. There are recipes out there with tinned chickpeas that supplement with flour and other starches, and you’re welcome to go hunting … or, just remember to soak your chickies the night before — I promise you it’s worth it!
If you don’t have time to make the tabouleh, make a simple leaf salad and drizzle with the lemony yoghurt dressing instead.
As an alternative to chickpeas, try using dried lima beans or fava beans. Texturally, it doesn’t hurt to pop these legumes out of their skins. Once soaked for long enough, the skins should slip right off.