The chickpea may well save the world

In Recipes on January 20, 2014 at 5:10 am

A couple of years ago I saw a documentary about future world food shortages.  In the program it was argued that it may well be the humble chickpea that saves the world from starvation.  This legume produces a high yield, richly nutritious food under very arid conditions and this is probably why it is ubiquitous all over the Middle East.  One of the most popular ways to eat the chickpea in many Middle Eastern countries, is in the form of the delicious fried street food, falafel.

In my long cooking life I have cooked many dishes with a pretty good success rate but felafel was something that had always eluded me.  I tried a number of times with soaked and cooked chickpeas only to end up with an oily sludge at the bottom of the pan.  For years I gave up on them and bought my falafel from people who knew how to cook them.  Recently, to my great relief, the mystery was solved thanks to my friend, Hiba who hails from Iraq.  The dried chickpeas need to be soaked overnight, she told me, but not cooked.  The cooking was the reason my falafel always fell apart.  Hiba gave me a foolproof recipe but, not content with that, I invited her over to cook them with me so I would know all the tricks.  Here is what we made – quite simply, the best falafel I have ever tasted.

Hiba’s Falafel


Hiba’s tasty falafel


1 large onion (peeled and roughly chopped)

3 cloves garlic

4 – 5 cups chickpeas (soaked overnight but not cooked)

1 bunch flat leaved parsley

1 bunch coriander

1 1/2 – 2 tsps ground cumin

1 1/2 tsps ground coriander

2 – 3 tbs sesame seeds

freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

2 tsps ground sea salt

1 cooked potato skin on (peeled)

1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


Into a large food processor bowl add the onion, garlic, torn parsley and coriander.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add the chickpeas and blend until fairly smooth, it doesn’t matter if there are a few rougher pieces.  Add up to 1/2 a cup water if the mixture is too dry.   Add the cumin, coriander, black pepper, salt and sesame seeds.  Pulse until incorporated, not too much.  Place mixture in a large bowl, add the grated potato, mix together.  Just before you fry, add the bicarbonate of soda.  Let the mixture sit for 10 mins. while you get a wok or deep fryer heated up.  Place 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil and 1 1/2 cups olive oil in a wok or deep fryer, heat until the oil bubbles around the handle of a wooden spoon dipped in.  Use a tablespoon and your hand to fashion little patties, drop these into the oil carefully regulating the temperature of the oil with more falafel or by turning the heat down a little.  Be careful not to burn them.  Serve immediately with pita bread, dips and the salad of your choice.

falafel with dips and salad

Falafel served with dips and salad


Make a quick tahini sauce to go with your falafel.  3 tbs tahini, 2 cloves garlic (crushed), juice of 1 lemon, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a couple of tablespoons of water to thin the mixture down.

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