As part of our ancient history studies this Fall, I am digging into foods from ancient Mesopotamia, (which is in the region that is now known as the Middle East). Archaeological evidence shows that chickpeas were one of the earliest crops to be used in farming, as domesticated chickpea remains have been found dating back to around 10,000 years ago. In relatively modern times, one of the most common ways to cook chickpeas is to make them into falafels.
Falafels are delicious fried dough patties made with ground chickpeas, onions, and spices. While we had previously only enjoyed falafels when eating at a local Middle Eastern restaurant, my family has been delighted that I can now make falafels at home. The easiest way to make falafel dough is with a food processor, which makes it easy to grind the ingredients together. I have chosen to make our falafels into patties, so that I don't need to use quite so much oil when frying them. If you have a deep fryer, you could certainly make this falafel recipe into balls instead of patties.
My falafel recipe begins with soaking dried chickpeas in an acidic medium overnight. This important step reduces the phytic acid antinutrient that is naturally present in grains and legumes. Once the falafels are cooked, they are topped with jajeek, which is an Iraqi cucumber yogurt sauce. Falafel and jajeek are delicious in a salad or on pita bread.
Falafel with Jajeek - Fried Chickpea Patties with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Falafel - Fried Chickpea Patties
Makes 28-30 falafels
To soak the chickpeas:
Falafel flavoring ingredients:
2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 Tb dried parsley
6 medium cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried coriander
2 tsp dried cumin
2 dashes of dried cayenne pepper
a pinch of dried cardamom
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
3 Tb white rice flour
To fry the falafel:
~1 cup of refined coconut oil or other high-temp cooking oil (such as sunflower oil or peanut oil)
Optional: jajeek (recipe follows), lettuce, tomatoes, and/or pita bread
Required equipment: 7-cup food processor
Place the chickpeas in a large glass bowl. Cover the chickpeas with plenty of filtered water, enough for them to easily double in size. Stir in 1 Tb raw apple cider vinegar. Allow to soak overnight.
In the morning, drain the chickpeas. Add fresh water and another tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Allow to soak until about an hour before dinner.
Drain the chickpeas well. With a 7-cup food processor, this recipe works best if you mix up the ingredients in two batches.
Put half of the chickpeas and half of the falafel flavoring ingredients into the food processor. A lemon reamer works well to juice the lemon. Pulse and process until the mixture is finely ground. Dump into a large bowl.
Place the remaining half of the chickpeas and falafel flavoring ingredients into the food processor. Pulse and process until the mixture is finely ground. Add this mixture to the rest of the falafel mixture in the large bowl.
Use a 3Tb scoop to create falafel balls. Place the falafel balls on a large cutting board or plate. Use your hands to flatten the falafels into patties that are ~3/4 inch thick.
Begin to heat up a heavy-bottomed skillet. I like to use two 10-inch cast iron skillets to cook the falafels so that they are done cooking much more quickly. Add enough oil to the pan to give an oil depth of ~1/3 to 1/2 inch.
Once the oil is shimmering and hot (but NOT smoking), add the flattened falafel patties. Make sure to leave enough room so that the falafels are not touching each other, and will be easy to turn.
Allow the falafels to cook undisturbed for a few minutes until they've reached a medium brown color. Carefully flip over each falafel patty using tongs or a spatula. Cook the second side for a few minutes until you've achieved the same medium brown color.
Line a plate with paper towels. Place the cooked falafels on the paper towels to drain any excess oil.
Serve the falafels with jajeek, lettuce, tomatoes, and/or pita bread.
Jajeek - Iraqi Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Makes ~3 cups
1&1/2 cups plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
1&1/2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp finely ground Celtic sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
2 cups chopped cucumber (if the skin is thick, peel the cucumbers!)
Combine the yogurt, mint, salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. A lemon reamer works well to juice the lemon. Stir to combine.
Stir in the chopped cucumbers.
Store in the refrigerator while you prepare the falafel.
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