Falafel & its Many Friends
I’ve been meaning to make Falafel for a while now, but it always seemed like I didn’t have enough time to prepare it. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not hard to make, but prepping does require a little time. But since I was craving it so bad, I decided to stop overthinking it and one evening I just threw the chickpeas in a bowl and covered them with water to soak overnight. The next evening we enjoyed one of the nicest dinners since what I like to call our short-term exile.
Since we’re redoing our apartment, we’ve moved temporarily to a new place and the oven here has a mind of its own that I’d rather not bother figuring out, so I’ve started focusing on no-bake desserts for the time being. This is how I came up with this recipe of Sweet Labneh with Roasted Sour Cherries & Blueberries. And missing a proper oven turned out to be such a nice opportunity to come up with a dessert that is both finger-licking good but also light and refreshing. The upside of our temporary move is that I got the chance to roast the eggplants for the Baba Ganoush on the gas hob, which makes for a much nicer flavour than you’d get by roasting them in the oven. My only regret is not having doubled the quantity for Labneh, so that we’d also enjoy it mixed with a little olive oil and Za’atar. But there’s plenty of time for that in the very near future. I did however make enough Tabbouleh to go around, since that goes really nice with Falafel, in my humble opinion, aside from its accompanying Tahini sauce.
Without further ado, I invite to browse below, see if there’s a dish you’d like to make from this Mediterranean feast or why not, make them all!
Two medium eggplants, roasted on an open flame on the gas hob or in the oven
60g/ 1⁄4 cup light tahini
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
Juice from one lemon
1-2 crushed garlic cloves
Salt & pepper, to taste
A handful of pomegranate seeds, optional
Start by roasting the eggplants.
If you’re using the gas hob, wash and dry eggplants, then pierce them with a fork. Place one eggplant directly on the gas hob grate over medium flame for about 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking. Once the eggplants have roasted, place them into a bowl. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and allow eggplants to reach room temperature.
If you’re using the oven,wash and dry eggplants, then pierce them with a fork. Set your oven on broiler and once hot, place eggplants on a baking tray about 20cm/9in. below the broiler. Roast under the broiler for 20-30 minutes until soft, turning every 5 minutes. Once done, remove to a chopping board and slice the eggplants open. With a large spoon, scoop out the roasted flesh and place it in a bowl. Peel off remaining skin with the aid of your hands.
Add tahini along with the rest of the ingredients except for the pomegranate seeds to the bowl with the eggplants and using a fork mash everything together. Mix until well combined. If you won’t be serving it right away, place in the fridge. Before serving, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and scatter the pomegranate seeds on top.
60g/1⁄4 cup bulgur
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
125ml/1⁄2 cup boiling water
3 bunches of fresh parsley, finely chopped
A small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, chopped into small cubes
1⁄4 seedless cucumber or seeds removed, peeled, and cut into small cubes
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Stir together bulgur and half a Tbsp olive oil in a bowl. Pour boiling water over, then cover bowl with a plate and let sit for 15 minutes. Afterwards, drain in a sieve and press on bulgur to remove excess liquid. Once cooled, transfer bulgur to a bowl and toss with all the other remaining ingredients, including the remaining half a Tbsp olive oil .
450g/1 lb dry chickpeas
1 onion, chopped
A large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tbsp chickpea flour (use regular flour if you haven’t got any on hand)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp (freshly) ground pepper
Vegetable oil – I like to use avocado oil because it has a high smoke point and it has no flavour, but sunflower or canola oil work well too here
The night before making this, soak the chickpeas in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by 8cm/3 in. The next day, rinse and dry the chickpeas. Put them in the bowl of a food processor or blender along with all of the ingredients except the vegetable oil and process until you obtain a small grained texture; be careful not to turn it into a paste. Place the mixture in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for two hours.
When you’re ready to fry them, remove from the fridge and start forming the mixture into balls with your hands. With wet hands, take about as much mixture you can fit in the round of your palm and form a ball that you will then flatten. Don’t worry if they don’t hold together perfectly, they will once they start frying. Place formed falafels on a cutting board.
In a large skillet pour enough cooking oil to obtain a level of 4cm/11⁄2 in. Heat the oil over low-medium heat. Once hot, place enough falafels as you can fit in the skillet and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. The falafels are ready when they reach a deep golden-brown colour. However, if they brown too quickly, it means your oil is too hot and your falafels will burn on the outside and not cook enough on the inside. Should this happen, turn your heat lower. With a slotted spoon, remove falafels to a paper towel covered platter to soak up extra oil. Serve right away with pita bread and tahini sauce.
4 Tbsp light tahini paste
1 Tbsp room temperature water
2 tsp lemon juice
One garlic clove, crushed
Salt, to taste
Blend or whisk all ingredients together until a saucy paste is obtained.
Classic Za’atar Labneh
350g/11⁄4 cup Greek Yogurt (I prefer 10% fat)
A dash of fine salt
A squeeze of lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Za’atar [store bought or home-made by mixing together 1 Tbsp dried ground thyme, 1 Tbsp ground cumin, 1 Tbsp ground coriander, 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 Tbsp sumac, ½ tsp fine salt, ¼ teaspoon or more (Aleppo) chili flakes (optional)].
Set a fine strainer over a bowl and line with several layers of cheesecloth, allowing them to overhang. In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, salt and lemon juice. Place mixture into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and place overhanging layers of cheesecloth over the yogurt to cover it. Place in the fridge for 12, preferably 24 hours, until it thickens. Transfer labneh to a serving bowl and give it a whisk, then drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
Sweet Labneh with Roasted Sour Cherries & Blueberries
300g/11 oz sour cherries, fresh or if frozen, thawed
125g/4.5 oz. blueberries
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
One batch classic Labneh made by following instructions above, but omitting olive oil and Za’atar
2 tsp finely grated zest from an organic lemon
2 Tbsp honey
Seeds scraped from one vanilla pod
Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Place fruit in a roasting dish in a single layer, mix with sugar and roast for 15 minutes. Remove on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain fruit into a bowl and reserve juice.
To make the Sweet Labneh, mix the thickened labneh with the lemon zest, honey and vanilla seeds. Place on a serving dish, top with roasted fruit and drizzle with a little of the juice. Place remaining juice in a small pitcher and serve alongside the Labneh & fruit dish. I like to just hand out dessert spoons and have everyone eat directly from the serving dish, but you can use individual bowl if you like.