A Middle Eastern food, falafel offers you flavours that will burst in your mouth and make you come back for more. A chickpea falafel coupled with a good dipping sauce really does make these crispy balls stand out in the flavour department. I chose to make a homemade sauce with yogurt, cucumber, fresh chives, fresh basil, fresh mint, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and bits of traditional feta cheese.
Letting this dip stay in the refrigerator a day in advance will give you the best taste as the flavours have time to come together. If you decide to have no sauce with your falafel balls then you can simply enjoy them as they are. You may find the cumin will stand out amongst all the spices, at least I do with my recipe because I add enough for a pungent flavour. Chickpeas really don’t have much flavour so you need to jazz up your falafel balls if you want them to taste good.
Traditionally you may find falafel in pita with a sauce which could range anywhere from hummus to tahini (sesame seed paste) or you can create your own falafel sauce like I have today. You can find tahini at almost every grocery store in the international aisle and it’s reasonably priced for what you get. Inside the pita you can stuff it with lots of fresh vegetables, the falafel balls and your sauce of choice.
When you bite into my falafel balls you will have hot melted mozzarella oozing out from the inside of the crispy falafel ball. I have made my own olive pita bread and stuffed a few crunchy balls inside and it’s out of this world. If you don’t fancy pita you can easily take any bread you like and make a falafel sandwich, it really is up to your own taste.
What is a chickpea?
I went to Wikipedia to find out all I needed to know about chickpeas simply because I’m not a chickpea specialist and I wanted to learn more about chickpeas. If you are curious like me you might find this part of the recipe interesting then.
The chickpea also called the Cicer arietinum or better known as the garbanzo bean, “calavance” in Old Spanish is part of the legume family and packed full of protein and likely why my friend who is vegetarian serves chickpeas quite often to her family.
The chickpeas is also one of the earliest cultivated legumes with remains found in the Middle East but also dates back to the French. There are two types of chickpeas which I didn’t know about, one is called Desi which has a small darker seed and rougher coat and the other called Kabuli is a larger seed, lighter in colour and smooth.
According to Wiki, chickpeas are grown in the Mediterranean, western Asia, Indian subcontinent, the Great Plains and Australia. You can also find the black chickpeas called the “ceci neri” only grown in Puglia, Italy which I find interesting as we have a bag of black chickpeas. If you want to learn chickpeas 101 then click on the wiki link above and enjoy the chickpeas history.
How to cook dry chickpeas
We prefer to buy chickpeas that are dry and hydrate them on our own because the cost of dry chickpeas is much better for the grocery budget in the long run. We used to boil them in a pot but the task of babysitting the stove got a bit daunting.
We have a friend who is from India living in Canada now and prepares many variations of chickpeas recipes each week. She used to boil them or use her pressure cooker but now she tells us that she uses the crockpot to hydrate her chickpeas.
She came up with a brilliant idea and we haven’t looked back. Once a week, usually on the weekend we plug in our crockpot, add in 2 or 3 cups of dry chickpeas and cover the chickpeas with water. We turn the crockpot on high for 3 hours and voilà, cooked chickpeas and you don’t have to watch them.
I have also baked chickpeas which is simply a recipe for a roasted chickpeas snack that is well seasoned with various spices, coated in oil and then dry baked in the oven set at 350 degrees on a baking sheet until crunchy. They are easy to make and pack away for a snack at home, work or play.
Are falafel balls healthy?
I’m no nutritionist, and we are deep-frying the falafel here, although if you plan to bake falafel balls in the oven you would have a higher success rate of keeping the calories down and the cholesterol in check. You can also flatten the ball and shallow fry them in a frying pan instead of deep-frying and then drain on paper-towel. We don’t eat these often it’s considered more of a treat once in a while.
A falafel ball is also perfect veggie food for vegetarians if you want something to satisfy your deep-fried cravings or some people tend to cut some calories by making baked falafel balls although I have to admit I have never tried it that way.
Most food trucks that you will find that offer falafel balls will offer the pita falafel but I’m sure you could ask for a plate of balls instead. I’m not sure if any food truck has created the mozzarella filled falafel but if you are reading this, give me credit for the next best thing with falafel balls, it’s amazing. I’m probably not the first to discover that mozzarella and falafel go together but it certainly takes a boring falafel ball and turns it into a party in your mouth.
Home-made falafel balls are far superior to the boxed convenience type you can buy. Where to buy falafel balls? Well If you insist on making them from a box you can pick up a box at almost any major grocery store. I have seen them at Freshco, No Frills, Metro and Food Basics.
- Prep time: 30 minutes
- Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Cooking time: deep-fry until browned (3-4 minutes)
- Serving Size: Approximately 12- 14 falafel balls depending on how big you make them
- 1 cup of chick peas drained
- 1 cup of cubed mozzarella
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 sweet onion
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup fresh chives
- juice of 1 lime
- canola oil for deep-frying
- In a bowl mash-up your chickpeas with a potato masher or fork. It’s fine if there are chunks as I prefer the texture with chunks of chickpeas.
- In your food processor add all the other ingredients (except the mozzarella) and whiz them up until combined.
- Mix the contents of the food processor into the bowl of the mashed chickpeas and mix together until combined
- Roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls, press a cube of mozzarella in the middle and form a uniform sized ball with the mixture in your hand then set on a platter or baking sheet.
- Put in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so the flavours have time to come together.
- In a deep-fryer heat up your oil and drop the falafel balls in one at a time and fry until golden brown.
- Remove from the deep-fryer and drain on paper towel.
- Serve with your choice of dipping sauce, tahini, hummus, tzatziki dip or homemade cucumber yogurt feta sauce.
- Open your pita pouch, add in a few falafel balls, lettuce, tomato, onion, and your choice of sauce to make a falafel sandwich.
Cucumber Yogurt Feta Sauce
- 1/2 cucumber chopped into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon of dill
- 6 fresh basil leaves minced
- juice of half of a lime
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup of traditional feta crumbled
- 1 cup of plain Greek Yogurt
- 1/4 minced chives
- 4 or 5 sprigs of mint minced
- Add all the ingredients except the feta to a bowl and mix together
- Fold in the feta cheese until combined
- Wrap and refrigerate overnight or for the 2 hours that the falafel balls are in the refrigerator
Discussion: What is your favourite type of dip?
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