Monday, December 5, 2011

Baked Falafel (Chickpea Cutlets)

This recipe hits a double jackpot-one, its baked rather than fried and two, chickpeas kick up the protein quotient, especially if you're a vegetarian or have kids who you want to get some protein into, the tasty way!

Falafel is a very popular Mediterranean snack, usually deep fried. It is so popular that in Egypt, McDonalds has even introduced a McFalafel! I got this recipe from Prabha aunty, who is a gifted homemaker, having a warm, lovely house with a very inviting ambience to it. She obviously has a green thumb as there is a beautiful garden full of non-flowering plants (cacti, mostly). She is also a culinary expert, going by the taste of these cutlets that she made (and also the pineapple cookies that she had baked the morning that we visited her). I immediately mentally filed this away as the perfect savory snack for my son to take to school. I may have made some modifications in it from what she said. So far, I've made it twice or thrice already, freezing it in batches. I just happened to bake it one day and it came out perfectly browned and crisp, with just a drop of oil on both sides! Here's the recipe now-
To make 10-12 medium-sized cutlets

  1. 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight or for 6-8 hours (I used white chickpeas-Kabuli chana)
  2. 1 big onion, chopped fine
  3. 2 green chillies, chopped fine (increase or decrease to taste)
  4. 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
  5. 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
  6. A couple of curry leaves, chopped fine
  7. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  8. Salt to taste
  9. A pinch of soda bicarbonate (baking soda)
  10. 1/2 cup fresh or dried breadcrumbs
  11. A teaspoon of oil for each cutlet you bake (if you're deep frying or shallow frying, about 1/4 cup oil)
  • Drain the water in which the chickpeas have been soaked.
  • Put the chickpeas in a pressurecooker, with enough water to cover, a pinch of soda bicarb and a teaspoon of salt.
  • Close the cooker and after the first whistle, simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • When cool, remove the chickpeas, drain the water completely, remove the skin (if needed), and mash with fingertips until you get a smooth paste. Make sure it's not watery.
  • Now just add the rest of the ingredients, from nos. 2 through 8, into the chickpeas and combine everything well with fingertips.
  • Shape into lemon-sized balls, flatten, and roll around in the breadcrumbs.
  • Preheat oven to 180 C.
  • Place a drop of oil under each cutlet and on top.
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until brown and crisp (turning over after 10 to 15 minutes).
  • If you are deep frying, just heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup oil and drop the cutlets in, turning over when they turn golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
  • If you make these in large quantities, you can store it conveniently in the freezer and use as required. Make them on weekends and store for a week or two ahead. After you roll them in breadcrumbs, place them in flat freezer-safe containers with a little space in between them, so that it makes it easier to remove when needed. Now you can store them in the freezerware itself, or after they get frozen, remove them and just drop into a Ziplock bag and place them back in the freezer. Ziplock bags score over others for me because they take up less space.
  • If you find it difficult to shape these cutlets, adding some of the breadcrumbs into the chickpea mixture itself helps to bind them a little better.
  • The traditional falafel recipes include the use of flour as a binding agent. These are then directly deep fried. Bread crumbs are not used.
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