Sunday, March 23, 2014

Falafel with Tahini Flatbreads

Falafel with Tahini Flatbreads 2

It's Potluck Week at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week.  This is always a popular theme, because not only do we get to choose any recipe we like, but we can choose to cook with any one of our nine IHCC chefs - that's a whole lot of choice.

I couldn't resist the temptation to return to my favourite chef - the highly inspirational Yotam Ottolenghi.  I'd been wanting to try the falafel from his fabulous book, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, for months, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a try.

I first developed my love affair with falafel when we used to live in Christchurch and would frequent the fabulous Sami's Cafe (sadly, no longer there).  I'd tried falafel several times before, and always came away feeling horribly disappointed, but Sami's falafel won my heart.  Unlike the horrid, dry, tasteless "bullets" I'd experienced in the past, Sami's falafel were light, crispy and beautifully flavourful.

After Sami had set the bar so high, I was excited to see if Ottolenghi's falafel could live up to my expectations.  I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe.  Instead of using only chickpeas, I replaced half the quantity with some dried fava beans - a little tip I learned from Sami.  I replaced onion with shallots, because I prefer their more delicate flavour.  I replaced some of the spices called for in the original recipe with some Sami's Kitchen Falafel Spice Blend ** (a fragrant and spicy mix of coriander, cumin, pimento, pepper, cinnamon and cloves), and I also increased the ground cardamom in the original recipe, just a little.  Cardamom is our ingredient of the month at Tasting Jerusalem*, and I love the fragrance and slightly sweet flavour that it brings - it can overpower though, so do use it with restraint.  The end result - sensational flavour, great texture, gorgeously crunchy, everything I dreamed they would be.  I will definitely be making these again.


Of course, falafel is not complete without a few trimmings, not least some good pita bread.  I chose to make Donna Hay's Tahini Flatbreads from issue #73 of Donna Hay magazine.  These are so good, that they've become my "go to" flatbreads over the last few months, and are likely to stay that way for a long time.  If you've never tried making your own flatbreads before - seriously, these are the ones to try.

Tahini Flatbreads

Falafel Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 cup dried fava beans
1x shallot, roughly chopped
1x clove garlic, roughly chopped
generous handful flat-leaf parsley
generous handful coriander
4x teaspoons Sami's Kitchen Falafel Spice Blend **
(available in New Zealand here, or internationally here)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 tablespoons plain flour
generous pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons water
sunflower oil to deep fry
sesame seeds to finish

Place dried chickpeas and fava beans in a large bowl;  fill the bowl with cold water;  and leave to soak overnight, or at least 12 hours.

Drain the chickpeas and beans well and place in the bowl of your food processor.  Add the onion, garlic, parsley and coriander.  Blitz until finely chopped.  It's best to use the pulse function on your food processor so that you don't overdo it.  The final mixture should be very finely chopped and just beginning to clump together, but definitely don't grind it to a paste or let it get mushy.

Remove mixture to a bowl, and add the spices, baking powder, flour, salt and water.  Mix well, using your hands, until everything is well combined.  Cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour before continuing.

Place a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat and fill with oil to a depth of about 7cm (2-1/2 inches).  Heat the oil to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Using wet hands, form the mixture into small patties or ball.  Squeeze them together really well, as you will find the mixture is a little crumbly and delicate.  Sprinkle just a few sesame seeds on the top of each one, and very carefully lower them into the hot oil, cooking them in batches, until deep golden and crispy, and cooked through - about 4 minutes.

Remove, drain on a paper towel, and serve immediately.

Falafel with Tahini Flatbreads Collage

Tahini Flatbread Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
from Issue # 73 of Donna Hay Magazine
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1-1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon honey
sunflower oil for frying

Mix water, sugar and yeast together in a small bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside for about 5 minutes until the mixture is all frothy on top.

Meanwhile, mix flour and salt together in a large bowl, and make a well in the centre.

Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture, and whisk it in lightly.  Then pour all of the liquid into the dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a dough, and knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth - about 5 minutes.

Return the dough to a lightly oiled, clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to stand in a warm place until doubled in volume - about an hour.

Meanwhile, mix the tahini and honey together in a small bowl and set aside.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and divide into 8 pieces.  Form each piece into a small ball then, working with one piece at a time, roll each ball out to form a circle.  Place a teaspoon of the tahini-honey mixture on each round, and spread it out, leaving a 1cm (1/2 inch) border around the edge.  Fold the dough in half, and then in half again, to form a triangle;  then roll the dough out again to flatten it.

Heat a little sunflower oil in a large cast iron, or other heavy based, pan over high heat, and fry until golden and cooked through - a couple of minutes each side.

Falafel with Tahini Flatbreads 1

Serve the finished falafel, with tahini flatbreads, a generous dollop of hummus, fresh coriander, a simple tomato salad and a drizzle of yoghurt.


If you would like to get to know Donna Hay and Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, and to see what everyone has cooked up for our potluck feast this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...


... or check out Jerusalem and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.


*I am also sharing this post at Tasting Jerusalem, a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and liking our Facebook page.

And, because it would be rude not to, I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday, hosted by Designs by Gollam.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge            Weekend Cooking Badge            Foodie Friday Badge

**  Note:  I'm not paid to tell you how good Sami's Kitchen spice blends are.  I'm just telling you because I use them myself a lot and I love them.  If you're able to get them where you live I urge you to try them.


  1. I love falafel but haven't made it a long time. You are inspiring me! Great recipes this week.

    1. Thanks, Beth. This was my first time making falafel, but it definitely won't be my last.

  2. Divine. I love the idea of adding the tahini to the breads!

    1. Thanks, Alicia. The tahini and honey in the breads gives them great flavour, and the layering makes them deliciously moist, light and flaky - almost like an Indian paratha.

  3. I love falafel and agree that you can come across some that are very lacking in flavor and texture. I tried making them at home. Once. From a mix. Mistake, of course. Seeing this makes me excited to try my hand at falafel again.

    The recipe I most often use for flatbread includes honey and I think it is a great addition. I've never tried tahini in a flatbread recipe--sounds really good. Your breads are beautifully browned, Sue. The entire dish is something I would thoroughly enjoy. I like that you were able to incorporate 2 IHCC chefs in one meal!

    1. Hi Michelle, hope you give the falafel a try - I'm sure you'd enjoy them. I don't know why I put off making them for so long. I think in my mind I had the idea that they were really difficult to make, but really no more difficult than soaking a few chickpeas then blitzing up with some flavourings - easy.

      I think you could actually use any flatbread/pita recipe in this way, and just roll it in this way with the tahini & honey filling. I think you use the Tessa Kiros recipe for pita, don't you? I'm sure that would work.

    2. Yes...I love the Tessa Kiros recipe. Thanks for stopping in and linking. I've been thinking about your falafel and flatbreads all week!

  4. I would love to make flatbread. I have been afraid to try it even though I make breads all week for our dinners and lunches. Don't know why I have been afraid to tackle flatbread but must try it.

    Looks so very delicious and healthy. Count me in!

    1. Tina, I know exactly what you mean. Despite being a regular bread and pizza maker, I didn't try making flatbreads for a long time. Making pita bread when we were cooking with Tessa Kiros was the turning point for me. They really are very simple, and of course delicious too. Hope you find the courage to face your flatbread fears :-)

  5. Hi Sue,
    I have not tried falafel before. And have just bought myself a copy of Jerusalem. Big smiles!
    This is such a lovely meal, the tahini flatbread looks good, sounds great with the tahini, and I am just imagining how it tastes like, which I know would be delicious!

    1. I've eaten quite a few falafel over the years, many of which have in all honesty been very disappointing, but I can promise that these ones definitely won't disappoint. How exciting that you've now got a copy of Jerusalem. I can remember when I first got mine - I cooked out of it nearly every night for a fortnight! If you enjoy the book, Joyce, you might enjoy cooking with the Tasting Jerusalem group - each month we have a chosen ingredient to explore and cook with from the Jerusalem cookbook.

  6. I love a good falafel and these look wonderful--especially on those homemade flatbreads. I would happily eat them up. ;-)

  7. What a delightful couple of recipes Sue. I've just been making a load of falafels lately and would love to try yours. The breads also look so tantalising.

    1. Thanks, David, and thanks for stopping by - hope you enjoy the falafel

  8. this looks so good and healthy with all the beans "-)

  9. That looks delicious! I've always wanted to try my hand at making falafel - this recipe looks like a good place to start. Those flatbreads must have been so flavourful with the addition of tahini and honey - great idea.

    1. Thanks, Zosia. I hope you give the falafel a try - I'm sure you'd enjoy them. The flatbreads were delicious, and have become a regular around here.

  10. I've never made falafel. Now I have a good recipe to follow. Thanks.

  11. Brilliant adaptation Sue - the favas mixed with the garbanzos - brilliant. And I'm drooling reading about those flatbreads - they sound better than the pita from Oren's! Great to have you with us this month cooking with cardamom!

    1. Thanks, Beth. The favas add amazing texture to the falafel mix. The pita at Oren's would be extremely hard to beat, but these might come a close second. Actually, I would give anything for another lunch at Oren's - will definitely be one of my first ports of call next time I come back to San Francisco.

  12. Yum, tahini flatbread! The falafel sound great too - shamefully I have never made my own, though I do make them with the help of 'Lisa' (of Lisa's Hummus fame) on busy nights occasionally. My husband was sustained through university by Sami's Kitchen - the first time I went to Christchurch with him he insisted we go there and I was hooked instantly. It's just as well we didn't live nearby! Hope all is well x

    1. Thanks, Lucy - the tahini flatbreads are great. Since moving away from Christchurch, Sami's has always been the first place we would head to on any return visit. Such a shame that he is no longer there - not only amazing food, but Sami is also such a lovely, lovely man. Thanks for stopping by xo

  13. So good Sue, love them! and the flat bread too!

    I put your name down for May Sweet NZ (Marnelli is doing April), thank you :-)


    1. Thanks, Alessandra, and I'll look forward to hosting Sweet NZ again xo

  14. Oh falafel, how I love thee. Let me count the...oh sorry, my passion for this humble food gets away from me sometimes. Can't wait to try this version! I've never made it with fava before.

  15. Thanks, Renia - seems there are a lot of falafel fans out there. Hope you enjoy this version with the fava beans - let me know what you think.

  16. I saw this on Ms and had to come read your post.
    We loooooooooove falafel - it's super popular here, although I don't make it my self (my uncle does)
    Personally I don't like lots of coriander but it's a matter of taste.
    Yours definitely look fantastic - very appetizing!!

    Your pita-bread also looks terrific
    I'm hungry now :)

  17. I love the look & sound of those little falafel Sue! And that flat bread is crying out to me to make it 😊 These are both going on the must make very soon list. Hope you have had a lovely Easter xx


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