Falafel, or ta’ameya as we call it in Egypt, is an all time favorite street food. Waking up early in the morning, you can go to the nearest street corner, and find a vendor selling freshly fried ta’ameya that he will wrap into a wad of old newspaper. And even better is the tahini sauce that is served with it – I could eat it with a spoon…
Falafel has experienced a newfound fame in America. It has become the ultimate vegetarian food. It can be found at a number of places, and oftentimes at exorbitant prices. Unfortunately, the more falafel you eat in America, the more nasty falafel you come across. There is nothing worse that biting into a falafel that is crispy on the outside, but doughy/raw in the middle. This is sad, because it is a fairly simple recipe, and pretty hard to screw up.
In most parts of the Middle East, falafel is made with ground chickpeas. However, in Egypt, we make it with dried fava beans. I think it makes a big difference in taste. You can even make it with a mixture of both. In America, it can be tricky to find dried fava beans, but they are easily found in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Sometimes they can be found under the name “broad beans” as well.
The recipe below is a riff on my mother’s infamous ta’ameya recipe. Her secret is A LOT of greens. She uses dill, parsley and cilantro. Also, she also insists on keeping them flat when you fry them, so you don’t end up with a soggy center. This is VERY easy, and very yummy. Okay, so without further ado….
Ta’ameya (Spiced Fava Bean Falafel)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Makes approx. 40 falafels
2 cups dried split fava beans (broad beans)
1/2 bunch dill
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 poblano pepper
1 yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Olive or vegetable oil
(1) In a large bowl, add the dried beans and cover with water. Set aside overnight. The beans will absorb the water. Drain any excess water.
(2) In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, poblano pepper, cumin, coriander and salt. Puree until you have a smooth paste. Place into a large mixing bowl.
(3) Add the dill, parsley and cilantro to the food processor (remove stems). Puree until the greens are thoroughly chopped. Add to the bowl with the onion mixture. Use a spoon and combine the two together well.
(4) Add 1 cup of the soaked beans and 3 tbsp of the onion/greens mixture to the food processor. Mix well. Remove the mixture and place it into another large bowl.
(5) Repeat this step until you are all out of beans and mixture. I did this 3 times and had exactly the right amount, but I can see how the last round of beans may have too much or too little of the green mixture. It doesn’t really matter though, as you will mix all together anyway. (If you have a big enough food processor, you can do this all at once!)
(6) Add the sesame seeds to the falafel mixture and mix well with a spoon.
(7) At this point, you can decide whether you want to freeze some of the mixture for later use. Add the baking soda now if you are going to cook immediately. If you are going to freeze it, then do not add it until you are ready to cook it, otherwise the mixture will turn strange colors if you add the powder and then freeze (so says my mom…).
(8) In a large saucepan, heat a few tbsp of olive oil or vegetable oil. Use a spoon and make a small patty on the spoon. Drop it into the hot oil and press down on the patty a little with the spoon. Let it cook for a few minutes on each side, until browned on both sides.
(9) Sprinkle some additional salt to taste, and enjoy!!