Thursday 8 June 2017

Oven baked falafel – a dish for peace

So many countries say certain foods are their own creation. Falafel is one of those dishes that Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and the other countries in the region – and beyond - like to claim ownership of. Disputes apart, such foods can in reality bring people together, reflect what people have in common, rather than what sets them apart - regardless of their religion, faith, skin colour, or culture.

In light of the recent attacks in London and Manchester, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Sorry to raise this in a food and travel blog, but Borough Market, where the attack happened, is a place where foods from many traditions are celebrated by Londoners. I often take foreign friends visiting the city to enjoy the diverse culture of the area – a good example of the embracing, inclusive and welcoming nature of places such as London and Manchester.

I am a Brazilian-born Brit, of Italian and Lebanese descent, married to a New Zealand-born Brit and we have an English daughter. I love every aspect of this fusion and they all seep into my cooking. But I digress. Back to the falafel, I have tasted some delicious ones in my life in different parts of the globe. When I visited Israel many years ago, I ate one of the best falafels I had in my life. Then, in April this year, in Greece, I tasted again another amazing falafel, even better than the other one. (I mention it here).

Countries can make their claims - and I acknowledge the importance of celebrating and protecting traditions - but what matters in the end is the love people put in when cooking the food they are passionate about. Life would be so much simpler if it all would come down to love. We are all equal - with lots of individual flavours.

I took inspiration for this falafel recipe from a fellow Instagrammer @healthy.simple and made my own adaptation. 

Mix some of the ingredients in the food processor.
Pulse until minced but not too smooth. Then add sesame seeds, salt and olive oil.
Shape as you like it.
If you choose patties...
...squash them slightly.
Serve them as snack with tahini sauce...
...or with yogurt sauce.
You can also enjoy them as a light lunch in pitta bread with a salad and tahini sauce.
Oven Baked Falafel

The baked falafels are not as crunchy as the fried version (if you prefer, shallow-fry them to obtain a crunchier texture). But they are healthier and still taste good as a snack or enjoyed in pitta bread with salad. If you want to make a bigger batch, bake them and freeze for up to a couple of months. Then just reheat them wrapped in foil and bake them until hot.

Makes about 15-20 patties

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to grease the baking sheet
250g cooked chickpeas, if cooking from dried, soak them overnight (see recipe here)
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
½ teaspoon garlic powder
20g of fresh parsley
20g of fresh coriander
½ teaspoon hot paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric
zest of a small lemon
2 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 ½ Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of Himalayan salt


Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Grease a large baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil.
Drain the chickpeas. In a food processor combine them with the onion, garlic powder, hot paprika, lemon zest, cumin, turmeric, fresh parsley and coriander.
Pulse until everything is minced, but not smooth, scraping the sides if needed.
Place the mixture in a bowl then add the sesame seeds, olive oil and salt. I left the mixture rest in the fridge for about half hour.
Using your hands, form small patties and place them on the greased baking sheet.
Bake for about 10 minutes on each side (careful when flipping sides as they are very soft at this stage) until they reach a golden colour. 

Serve them as a snack with yogurt or tahini sauce or as a light lunch in pitta bread with a salad and tahini.

Yogurt sauce

5 Tablespoons organic greek yogurt
juice of half lemon
1 garlic, crushed
Sea salt
a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the yogurt, juice of lemon, garlic and sea salt well. Drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle some paprika on top.

Tahini sauce

125g tahini paste
juice of half lemon
100 ml water
sea salt

Mix tahini paste and lemon juice together. Add the water and salt and stir well.

A healthy note: Chickpea is the most nutritious of all the legumes. It is very good for your pancreas, stomach and heart. It is high in protein, fat and carbohydrate. Contains very good levels of iron (more than other legumes), calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, and especially folic acid (B9). Sprouted chickpea contains vitamin C and enzymes.
Till next week!

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