Although I’ve been eating them for years, I feel like I finally ‘get’ falafel. I always used find them a bit dry and poky when we had them for lunch as children, but I’ve now worked out that they’re at their best when they’re not treated as the star of the show (sorry purists) and instead are smothered in hummus and pickles and yoghurt. The best falafel ensemble you can get in Dublin isn’t at ‘that falafel place Umi’ (not dry, but definitely not generous in spirit), but at places like Little Jerusalem in Rathmines, where the falafel comes as a plate with all the accompaniments, or at the People’s Park Market in Dún Laoghaire, where you get everything – tahini hummus, onion, spicy sauce, falafel, red cabbage – in one, big, soft hug of a flatbread. These flatbreads lie somewhere between a tortilla and a pitta bread in spirit and are pretty much essential for a good falafel wrap, because although pitta have the right taste profile for falafel they just don’t quite work – they’re a little small, and they become crisp and brittle when heated; tortillas on the other hand are too big and have a slightly sweet flavour which doesn’t work well with Middle Eastern food.
I had resigned myself to using pitta when I found ‘fresh wraps’ in Tesco (and probably elsewhere too, as they’re from a mainstream brand), which are a pretty good approximation of the flatbread you get at markets. Once I had my flatbreads sorted, I decided to make broad bean and pea falafel, tahini hummus served with diced red onion, coriander, pickles and thyme roasted chickpeas. Alongside these we had yoghurt with a swirl of harissa and olive oil, fresh peas from the garden and small, sweet cherry tomatoes. The falafel (adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe, whom I secretly adore) worked out really well, and they were easier to make than I’d expected. They also tasted great – really herby and fresh – and were perfect for a sunny garden dinner.
Makes 10 – 12
1 tin chickpeas (I’ve always liked Batchelors)
1 tin mixed beans
Zest of a lemon
1tsp dried cumin
1tsp dried coriander
1tsp cumin seed
Handful of coriander – set aside the leaves to use later and just use the stems, finely diced
Handful of mint and parsley leaves, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
1tbsp olive oil + more to cook
A little vegetable oil
1/2 a tbsp of plain flour
2tsp of harissa paste (or more if you like)
A handful of fresh or frozen peas and broad beans
Incorporate all of the ingredients either by hand or in a food processor until lumpy but not puréed, then add the peas and beans at the end to keep them whole. Chill the mixture for 10 or 15 minutes at this point if you can. Using wet hands, mould the falafel mix into about ten tight little patties or spheres – pat the sides with your hands to compact them (Felicity Cloake suggests rolling them in sesame seeds at this point, which sounds good). Pour a decent amount of the oils into the pan and heat. Fry the falafel in the oil and turn over when the side touching the pan has become crisp and golden. Repeat for all sides and either serve immediately or cover and heat up again later in the oven with a little more oil.