It has only just occurred to me, as I began to type this, that in fact this another manifestation of my chickpea obsession. Clearly I have a bit of a problem. Well, it'd be one of the healthier ones, so I won't fight it. On this occasion the pulse o awesome pops up in the form of falafel. I do love falafel, spicy little rounds of knobbly texture. Sometimes when I'm meeting a friend to see a movie in the IFI we grab dinner there beforehand, and I always go right for the falafel. They have a fresh and healthy bite to them, and somehow the fact that they are so full of flavour means that you feel extremely full after eating relatively lightly. In a wholemeal pitta, with crunchy lettuce and the cool ooze of tzatziki, this is a really refreshing meal that captures an abundance of tastiness in one petite package.
Since they are so very delicious, I somehow had imagined that falafel would be very complicated to make - or perhaps I was afraid that I would ruin my love of them by making a really hideous job of it. When I saw a recipe for them in my new Ravinder Bhogal book, Cook In Boots, I decided that they weren't so complex after all, and in fact would be spot on for a midweek lunch to jazz up my working day. Ingredients were mostly grabbed from about the kitchen, nothing wild or rare. To start: 200g chickpeas, 1 green chilli, 4 tbsp coriander and 4 tbsp parsley in the blender. Now: in the recipe, it says 200g chickpeas soaked overnight. I took this to mean that Ravinder wanted me to do the whole boil-em-yourself palaver, which I am completely opposed to, so I went straight for a tin in my cupboard. It was only when I read that the blitzed up mix should have a breadcrumb-like consistency that I twigged the chickpeas weren't supposed to be cooked at all. It certainly did have a moist consistency when it reemerged from the blender, but that didn't seem to spoil the end result in the slightest.
While that's whizzing its way into a tizz, assemble a chopped onion, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp tahini, and the juice of a lemon.
50g of bulghur wheat is required, another foodstuff towards which I have developed a great fondness of late. Again, I automatically assumed that this was to be soaked as normal, but I could be wrong. And again, the final product didn't seem to suffer as a result.
In with the delightfully green gunk.
On a non-stick pan, toast 2 tsp cumin seeds and 2tsp coriander seeds. You're supposed to grind these into a coarse powder once you have toasted them - if only I could stretch myself to such efforts.
At this point I must admit that the texture of the combined ingredients was worrying me a little; I wasn't entirely convinced that I'd be able to make roundy little falafels out of it, as it seemed a bit gloopy. I popped it in the fridge for half an hour and crossed my fingers.
After seeing how very healthy the ingredients were, I thought it was a shame to go and spoil it all by frying them, so I decided that only baking would do them justice. And, indeed, me of little faith - whether or not I was supposed to cook the chickpeas and bulghur wheat, it all firmed up sufficiently in the fridge to form 24 neat little falafels.
I experienced great pride and joy when these little imperfectly-formed beauties came out of the oven. I'm quite amused that they're so very green - I think it's a combination of the fact that I baked them rather than frying them, and also probably because I went to town on the fresh herbs.
Tzatziki is a total cinch, something that you can literally throw together to add a refreshing touch to a spicy dish. On this occasion I used creme fraiche instead of yogurt, just because I had some leftover in the fridge; along with it - cucumber, garlic, the juice of half a lemon and mint fresh from the garden.
Ready, steady, assemble!
I think it's the uneven green surface popping out of the brown pitta that makes these remind me of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.
If you have found your lunches becoming rather dull, or if you need something to pep up your day, I cannot recommend these more highly.