Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Falafel with Black Eyed Peas

The idea of making crunchy fried balls or croquettes using beans is centuries old. You can find classic recipes of "beans balls" in various Middle Eastern countries, but also in in India, Africa and South America. I called this recipe "falafel" only because that is probably the most famous word to describe "beans balls". In Brazil one would call that "acarajé", or "bolinho de feijão", meaning beans croquettes. It does not matter what you call it, you can use basically any type of beans to create your own nutritious and delicious crunchy thingies. Simply soak the beans for at least 12 hours, grind them in a food processor, add spices of your choice and fry them in hot oil. You can shape them as balls, as snacks,  burgers, or - if you are the creative type - any other shape you want. Just make sure they are not too huge so that the inside gets well cooked (you don't want to eat raw beans).  ;-)

In this recipe I used black eyed peas, as they are some of my favorite beans. They offer a very nutty flavour and take the spices in a very nice way. They also do not get as dry as the regular chickpeas falafels.  


500g dried black eyed peas (or other beans of your preference)
2 tbsp white tahini (should be fresh, not the bitter type)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp of ground allspice
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp dried mint
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp chilli pepper 
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp sumac (optional)
½ tsp baking powder (optional)
½ cup of fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped (or mint, or basil if you are not a coriander fan)
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, long stems removed, roughly chopped
Sunflower or other vegetable oil, to fry

Soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight. I left them for 14 hours, but if your beans are older, you might want to leave them soaking longer. In that case, refresh the water after 12 hours and leave them for another 8 or 10 hours. 

Drain and blend them with all the spices, salt and fresh herbs in a food processor. Add the tahini while the processor is still running, until all ingredients are well combined. I like the mixture not entirely pureed, but finely ground. 

Heat more or less 3,5 cm deep oil in a small pan over a moderately high heat (180C/350F) and fry a teaspoon of the mixture to check the seasoning. Adjust salt and spices if necessary. Chill the mixture for at least 20 minutes. Just before frying the falafels, add 1/2 tsp baking powder if you want (it’s optional). Use two spoons to shape the falafels, making sure the spoons used to shape the falafels do not touch the hot oil and go back into the mixture (that could change the texture of the dough and it might not work anymore). Turn the balls as soon as they get dark brown on one side, let them get brownish on the other side and when ready, take them immediately out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with tahini sauce, and a seasonal salad.

It can be frozen for later use.

*Note that the amount of spices and salt mentioned here are only a “guideline”. It always depends on personal preferences as well as on which brands and types you use. Sometimes I need to use half the amount of salt if I work with regular table salt (when not cooking at home for instance). Also the spices, if using freshly ground coriander, I might need less than if using a type that has been ground for several months (like when we buy it ground in the shops). 

**For the fresh herbs, there are plenty of herbs that could work in here, so even if you are not crazy about coriander/cilantro you can perfectly replace it by other garden herbs to your liking.  

*** Feel free to use other wild greens, such as nettles or dandelions to enrich this recipe. In winter time I like adding some nettle seeds to it, as it is incredibly rich in minerals. 

**** If you prefer a low fat version, you can also bake these in the oven. It is easier if you make the dough a little bit more liquid. Add a few tablespoons of flour (rice, chickpea, buckwheat...) or tapioca starch, add 1 tsp baking powder and bake them on a greased oven dish at 190°C for 15-20 minutes, depending on how large they are and how efficient your oven works.