Back in the days when I worked at Wine Magazine, we used have a 'sandwich man' that visited the office every lunchtime. Only he didn't sell any sandwiches. He only sold one thing: falafel in pitta wraps. They were sublime. Sadly he only lasted a few months – or maybe it was around the time I left. In any case, I have never been able to find falafel of that calibre anywhere since.
I remembered how much I love them when I was developing recipes recently for my healthier eating plan (which has been shot to hell on more than one occasion recently. Lets just say that pavlova didn't eat itself). But lets ignore that parenthesis for a moment and get back to the point... the perfect buttercream. No, wait, that wasn't it. HEALTHY eating.
Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring. It doesn't have to be tasteless. It doesn't have to feel like a chore. You do however have to plan for it – at least I do. I have a notebook full of ideas which I hope to put to practice in the coming weeks. Vegetables, fruit and pulses feature heavily (if not exclusively) in most of the recipes. Cauliflower is the star of many – who knew it was so versatile?
This dish of roasted cauliflower 'steaks' with roasted beets, carrots and a yoghurt tahini dressing was a roaring success. It is incredibly tasty, so filling and it counts as 5 of your 7 a day (or is it supposed to be more than that? I've lost count). And, yes, you do have to fry the falafel - which I guess is not the healthiest method. I will try baking them next time but the frying binds them together as well as makes them super tasty.
Note: The falafel mix does need some prep time. You have to soak the dry chickpeas overnight and then let the mix chill in the fridge for a few hours. But apart from that, it's very easy. For real life as my daughter would say.
I am submitting this veritable vegetarian feast to the Betta Living Vegetarian Recipe competition #BettaRecipe. Share your own vegetarian recipe for a chance to win £750.
For the falafel
Makes 8-12 depending on size – serves 4
130g | 1 cup dry chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large shallot or small white onion, chopped
4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Juice of half a lemon (or even 1 lemon)
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp tahini paste (stir it first)
5 tbsp sesame seeds (to press on top – optional)
Chopped coriander or parsley to serve
- The day before you make the falafel, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water. Stir in the soda and leave them overnight. They will swell to about double their size so make sure the bowl is large enough.
- The following day, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put them into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and pulse until you have a slightly coarse mix. You may need to stop and scrape the bottom of the food processor a couple of times. You want the falafel mix to be relatively smooth but with a bit of texture. The more paste-like it is the better it holds together when you fry them but you don't want it to turn into hummus.
- Pour the mix into a large bowl, give it a stir, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Take about 1-2 of tablespoons of the mix and form them into patties using wet hands. (If you are using the sesame seeds press some on the top of the patties). The mixture may not hold together well when you form these but once you start to fry them they will be absolutely fine - trust me.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Turn the heat down to medium-high and lower the falafel into the oil using a spoon (or your hand if you are me).
- Fry in batches, about 3 minutes on each side (flip them over gently), until they are golden brown. You may need to add a bit more oil in between batches.
- Drain on kitchen towel before serving.
|A vegetarian feast – falafel with roasted vegetables & yoghurt tahini dressing.|
- Preheat the oven to 180C | 350F. Wash the beets, dry and wrap each in foil. Place on a tray and put in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
- Scrub the carrots clean and trim the stalks but don't peel them. Place on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, cumin seeds and pepper and then drizzle a little honey. When the timer goes put them in the oven and reset the timer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the leaves off the cauliflower and trim the end but keep most of the stem as it hold the 'steaks' together.
- Place cauliflower on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into 1/2" 'steaks' – some florets will break loose.
- Place on a roasting tray (including any stray florets) and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with the Maldon sea salt and arrange the garlic cloves on the tray.
- When the timer goes put in the oven with the other vegetables and set the timer again for 30 minutes. The cauliflower is done when the stalk is easily pierced with a knife (although I prefer them a bit 'rare').
- The beets are done after 1 hour and the carrots need about 40 minutes (hence the timer intervals).
- Take the vegetables out of the oven. Let the beets cool slightly, remove the foil and peel with a sharp knife (your hands will turn a lovely shade of magenta). Chop into cubes or slice into disks.
- Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their casings and add to the dressing (see below).
250g | just over 1 cup Total Greek yoghurt (0% fat or classic)
3-4 tbsp tahini paste (stir it well first)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (either raw or roasted which has mellower flavour)
Juice of half a lemon (or to taste)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Seeds of half a pomegranate to serve
- Simply stir everything together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge.
- Arrange the cauliflower on 4 plates and top with the roasted carrots and beetroot.
- Divide the falafel between the plates and drizzle with the dressing.
- Top with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and chopped herbs. Dig in!