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.
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.
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.
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 omgyummy.com, 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.
** 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.