Falafel are great… or can be if they’re made right! The thing is you need to put bags of flavour in there. You need serious amounts of garlic, lemon juice, pepper and salt. And then of course there’s the spices. For me it has to be heavy on the cumin, probably my favourite spice and a little paprika and ginger help give an extra zing to the proceedings. A good handful of fresh herbs give the finishing touch.
Falafel are surprisingly easy to make. The main ingredient, chickpeas, are incredibly cheap too!
I like to have Falafel just as they are accompanied by a nice salad, maybe some Tabbouleh and lashings of Tzatziki… Oops, I’m beginning to sound like a vegetarian!
Once cooked they can also be warmed in a sauce, a nice rich tomato sauce works well. They’re almost like a vegetarian version of a meatballs.
So here’s a recipe you can follow to make your own. It uses dried chickpeas which have to be soaked overnight. I’m sure if you wanted you could cheat and use tinned, if you do you’ll want about double the amount of dried.
‘Ome Made Falafel
You will need:
- 500g dried chickpeas
- 6 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chilli
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
Soak the chickpeas overnight. Drain and rinse the chickpeas then grind to a course pulp in a food processor.
Mix in all the other ingredients using your hands to really work the mixture together.
Form into 4cm balls and place on greaseproof paper on a tray in a single layer.
To cook the Falafel are best deep fried or shallow fried and then finished off in an oven.If deep frying the oil wants to be around 160°C so that they will cook through without the outside getting too well done Take the Falafel out of the oil when they are firmed up and just starting to colour. The Falafel can be par cooked like this and then cooled and refrigerated or frozen. The Falafel can then just be popped into an oven to finish cooking.
Alternatively the Falafel can just be deep or shallow fried.
Easter Thai Time!
So for Easter Sunday this year we decided to have Thai.
We were having friends and Family around for Dinner so we decided to keep it simple.
So of course it had to be Thai Fishcakes and the ubiquitous Thai Green Chicken Curry. These were complimented by some nice crunchy pickled vegetables, cucumber sauce and Thai sweet chilli sauce.
The fishcakes were made a couple of days beforehand and re-heated in the oven for 35 minutes beforehand, they reheated really well and saved time on the day. The Thai green curry paste was also made in advance to save time.
Unfortunately there are no pictures of the Thai Green Chicken Curry (I’ve put one in of a previous creation) but I’ve included the recipe anyway for anyone that wants a go.
First up the pastes. These will make more than you need but if you fry them in some oil and put them in sterilised jars they will keep in the fridge for six weeks or so. By the way if you’re one of those Veggie or Vegan types you can omit the shrimp paste.
Thai Green Curry Paste
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or two level teaspoons ground coriander)
18 small, hot green chilli peppers
2 stems of lemongrass
3 tablespoon galangal sliced (or ginger)
1 tablespoon kaffir (if you can get them, normal if not) lime zest
30g/1oz coriander (if you can get it with the root on add that too)
6 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
60g/2oz shallots or onion chopped
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground white pepper (yes you can substitute black but white gives a truer and better flavour)
Add all the ingredients (starting with the hardest first) into a food processor or wet grinder and blitz to a smooth paste adding a little oil if necessary.
Thai Red Curry Paste
10 – 15 dried red chillies (soaked in hot water for twenty minutes or so)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 stems lemongrass sliced
6 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
60g/2oz shallots or onion sliced
3 tablespoon galangal or ginger sliced
1 1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
add all the ingredients into a food processor or wet grinder and blitz to a smooth paste as above.
Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)
this makes approximately 22
375g/13oz white fish (haddock, cod, Pollock!)
1 large squid tube
1/4 portion of red curry paste (roughly a tablespoon)
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon softened palm sugar or dark brown sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves soaked in hot water
55g/2oz yard-long beans (or any round green bean) cut into thin slices
1 small egg beaten
Prepare the fish and squid taking the bones and skin off the fish and removing the backbone, beak and intestines from the squid then rinsing. Roughly chop and process the fish in batches into a smooth paste. CurlyE was helping me with this – “Urgghhh! that looks like snot!” to be fair he was right! Mix in the other ingredients with just enough egg to bind without being sloppy.
Form the mixture into balls using about a dessert spoon of mixture for each one (having a bowl of cold water and keeping your hands wet will stop the mixture sticking to your hands). Flatten your balls into disks about 5mm thick.
place the fishcakes on greaseproof paper on a tray (if all the ingredients were fresh and not previously frozen they can be flash frozen at this stage).
To cook from fresh deep fry for approximately 3 minutes, from frozen give them about 4 – 5 minutes.
We love pickled vegetables in our house. They make a lovely side dish to all South East Asian food. Even a bit of poached chicken on some plain boiled rice is livened up and made into a tasty refreshing dish with the addition of them.
The choice of vegetable is up to you. In this instance we used baby sweet corn, onion, carrot strips, white cabbage and some green beans. We also did one jar with some sliced chilli in, some like it hot! The pickling liquor is quite light, so these will not keep for months but they should keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.
To make your pickling liquor you want roughly 50/50 vinegar to water, some sugar to taste and some bits n bobs in it to flavour (Lemongrass trimmings, coriander seeds, garlic, ginger or whatever takes your fancy).
Simmer the mixture for 20 – 30 minutes until the sugar has melted and the flavours have infused the liquor.
Prepare your veg and place in a colander over a bowl. sprinkle with salt, give it a toss and leave for 20 minutes to draw some of the water out. after twenty minutes give the veg a rinse, drain and then put in clean jars (sterilised if not using within a week). Strain your vinegar liquor while still hot and pour over the vegetables to cover. It will be ready after 24 hours.
Sorry it’s not much of a recipe but it’s just one of those things I do on the fly!
Sweet Chilli/Cucumber sauce
In a pan put 175ml/6 fl oz water, 250g/9 oz sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 175ml/6 fl oz white vinegar. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
Put 1/2 of the above mixture in a serving bowl, add a dash of fish sauce and light soy sauce. Finely dice some cucumber and add to the sauce. And that’s the cucumber sauce done.
To the remaining vinegar mix in the pan add 2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes or a couple of finely diced fresh red chillies and two teaspoons of strawberry or raspberry jam. Bring to the simmer again and cook until the jam has dissolved, that’s your sweet chilli done.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
Enough for 6 – 8 people
30g/1oz fresh coriander
1 generous tablespoon green curry paste
4 kaffir lime leaves (soaked in water if dried) shredded
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 400ml can coconut milk
6 – 8 chicken breasts sliced (roughly 1 kilo/2.2lb)
1 heaped teaspoon dark brown sugar or a couple lumps of palm sugar
a dash of soy sauce
a dash of fish sauce
some Thai basil leaves shredded
2 Thai red chillies thinly sliced
juice of two limes
Blitz the fresh coriander in a food processor. Heat some oil in a large pan and add the curry paste, fresh coriander, lime leaves and the spices. Fry for a couple of minutes, stirring so the mixture doesn’t burn. Add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer and cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken and if necessary enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring to the simmer and cook gently, covered for approximately 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Serve with some plain rice or noodles and a little pickled veg and mango salad on the side.
Dice a whole mango and place in a serving bowl. Add a dash of vinegar, black pepper, a sliced red chilli and a sprinkling of soft dark brown sugar. Top with some toasted and crushed cashew nuts before serving.
So that was our Easter Sunday Dinner. It might not have been traditional but it was damn good!
Oh… yes there was dessert but it was just a boring old trifle… and erm…. the custard didn’t set… whoops!
The trifle was a bit sloppy but that wasn’t going to stop me!
Soup… We absolutely love it in our house. Not the tinned variety of course. It has to be ‘Ome-made! And it’s so easy to make. You take your favourite ingredients sweat them off in some butter add some stock, cook for a bit and then blitz. Not leek and potato soup though, that can’t be blitzed. That’s completely breaking the rules, that has to be… ‘lumpy’.
If you make your own stock it’s even better. Even if it’s chucking the bones from the leftover roast chicken in a pot and boiling for an hour, you will be left with a nice base for a soup. Of course if your one of those non-meat eating types you can make a stock from those manky left over carrots at the back of the fridge any veg trimmings and some onion. If you roast the veg for 20 minutes or so you’ll get more flavour and a deeper colour to your stock too.
So heres a recipe for a soup I made the other day along with a recipe for some cumin, ginger and garlic croutons. If you don’t have the croutons with this soup I suggest putting the spices used to flavour them in the soup. Although this recipe has chillies and spices in it it is no way spicy. If you prefer it spicier just up the amount of red chili in the recipe.
Sweet Potato & Red Chili Soup
1 medium onion roughly sliced
2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
200g (a large baker) potato cubed
700g sweet potatoes (4 small or 3 medium)cubed
1 large carrot diced
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (or extra black if you haven’t)
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon mild curry massala (or curry powder)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 litre of stock
2 medium sized red chillies deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
Ground black pepper and salt to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Gently fry the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes.
Add both types of potato and carrot to the pan along with the white pepper, salt, curry massala, allspice and thyme. Gently sweat all the veg off for a further 10 minutes stirring so the spices don’t stick and burn.
Add your stock which should just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately forty minutes or until all the veg is cooked through and soft. Take off the heat and carefully blitz with a hand blender, blender or food processor.
Put back on the heat and add the remaining ingredients. The soup will be ready after 20 minutes.
Cumin Ginger & Garlic Croutons
8 slices white bread
2 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and black pepper
Cut the bread into cubes and put in a shallow roasting/baking tin.
Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with the garlic, cumin and ginger. Give the croutons a good toss and then sprinkle a little more olive oil on them and toss them again.
Put in an oven preheated to 165°C on fan setting (185°C for conventional)the croutons will take 30 – 40 minutes but you need to regularly check on them and give them a shake or turn every 10 minutes or so.
Once the croutons are cooked they can be used straight away. Once the croutons are completely cool they can be put in a sealed container where they should be good for up to five days.
Happy soup making!