Brunch: Ultra Healthy Falafel, Aubergine-Yoghurt Dip & Mint Lemonade Slush
This week’s brunch menu is one of my new favourite, go-to breakfasts and brunches (check out my Instagram feed to see exactly how often I eat this!). An unconventional choice perhaps, but incredibly enjoyable, satisfying and healthy nonetheless.
Now falafel is great, but deep-frying is not an everyday cooking technique for me. With falafel in particular, I feel like the chickpea mixture soaks up quite a lot of frying oil, no matter how I adjust the temperature.
So today’s recipe presents an alternative cooking method – very, very shallow steam frying. All it takes is a frying pan, a very thin film of oil and a lid and you’ve got yourself delicious, piping hot falafel with a lovely brown crust.
Throw a couple of poached eggs on that and it’s brunch! Whole grain bulgur wheat is also an excellent serving suggestion.
It is very important that you use dried chickpeas for this recipe. Having seen my brother having a mini meltdown when his tinned chickpea falafel fell apart during frying, I can tell you – this is definitely something you want to avoid. I guess it’s because tinned chickpeas are cooked and falafel calls for soaked, but uncooked beans.
The fact that the chickpeas do not need to be cooked beforehand is a big plus on the preparation front. I always use dried beans (cheaper, tastier, more natural), but let’s face it, soaking and boiling chickpeas is not an exciting kitchen task.
So, if you have a food processor, this homemade falafel really is a no-fuss meal. But you do need a food processor. In my younger, less machine-equipped days, I have tried to blend chickpeas with both a liquidizer and a hand blender. Think burnt out motors and very unsatisfactorily blended chickpeas. I can’t even imagine how you would attempt to crush them by hand.
Some people recommend baking falafel for a healthier option, and I have tried this, but I personally would not recommend it. In my experience, it not only takes longer, it doesn’t form a good crust and during the lengthy cooking time dries out fairly horribly. I have pulled a few batches of baked falafel out of my oven only to be rewarded with an unpleasantly dessicated dinner. Stick with steam frying I say.
This falafel mixture lasts for AGES in the fridge (at least a week) – much longer than I was expecting and much, much longer than homemade hummus which seems to go off at the drop of a hat. You can also freeze it very successfully – I usually divide it into portions that will last me a couple of meals, then defrost it in the fridge the night before. For all these reasons, the yield for this recipe is fairly high – enough for a few meals.
Falafel is usually bound with flour, but in this recipe I have used ground flax seed instead – both healthier (extra omega-3s) and gluten-free to boot. Falafel mixtures typically require resting before cooking, but I am happy to report that this recipe cooks beautifully right after mixing.
Despite the naysayers – I have had many people confused by the idea of eating falafel for breakfast – these tasty, protein-rich morsels are filling and feel indulgent, while actually being fantastically nutritious.
- 500g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 20g or 2 heaped tablespoons ground flax seed
- 15g or 2 level tablespoons water
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 50g or 1 medium bunch fresh parsley leaves
- 30 or 1 big handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 1 teaspoon hot chilli flakes, or to taste
- 40 grinds black pepper, or to taste
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Combine the ground flax seed, lemon juice and water and set aside while you prepare the rest of the mixture.
- Add the chickpeas to your food processor. Crush the garlic, dice the onion, roughly chop the herbs and add them all to the machine with the lemon zest, chilli flakes, black pepper and sea salt. Blend until well combined, but still a little chunky - you will probably need to scrape down the sides a few times. Add the flax-lemon and mix until thoroughly distributed.
- When you are ready to cook the falafel, and one teaspoon of oil to a heavy bottomed frying pan (I used a cast iron skillet) and heat over medium heat until thoroughly hot. You want the pan to be hot enough to brown the bottom, but not burn it - definitely no more than medium heat. Shape the falafel into flatish patties (a flat shape will yield a better crust) and add to the pan. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is well crusted. Remove the falafel from the pan, add the last teaspoon of oil, flip the patties and return to the pan. Cover again and cook until both sides are nice and brown. Serve immediately.
Despite being delicious all by themselves, my feeling is that falafel needs some kind of dip or dressing to keep everything nicely moist. So this week I am drawing your attention to one of my most successful original recipes, Smoky, Roasted Aubergine-Yoghurt Dip with Fresh Lemon & Garlic. This extremely versatile dip can be used with a huge variety of dishes, stretched across many different cuisines.
A cooling accompaniment to a south Asian curry? Yes. As a flavour boost for pizza or sandwiches? That too. To liven up roasted vegetables. Most definitely. All this and so much more. And here, the perfect Middle Eastern-style drizzle to accompany a fabulous brunch.
Lastly, my recommended post from the wonderfully creative community of food bloggers this week is Mint Lemonade Slush, from Taste of Beirut – this wonderful photograph above was taken by the author, Joumana Accad. I highly recommend this blog if you fancy adding some more delicious Lebanese dishes (my new favourite cuisine!) to your repertoire.
I cannot get enough of slushy drinks and I think this beautiful tart, herby summer drink is a great match for this menu. I would probably try and omit (or at the very least reduce) the sugar in this recipe, as I like things very sour and am trying to keep my sugar intake to an absolute minimum, but it still looks wonderfully delicious and refreshing!
Remember to keep me posted if you have any brunch ideas or requests of your own!
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