This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be taking an armchair culinary tour to the Middle East and looking at the origins of the humble falafel. Arguments abound as to where this street snack par excellence originated, but most likely it was Egypt according to the evidence.
The Egyptian version of this tasty bite is usually made with fava beans, known as fūl in Arabic, which is thought to be the base for the name falafel , whilst in other parts of the Mediterranean region chickpeas are preferred.
With both chickpeas and fava beans in short supply in Almaty at the moment, it was back to the drawing board to look for an alternative base for our falafel. While stocking up during lockdown in our local shop we came across a pack of millet and a spot of googling revealed that this would work just fine as the base for our take on the falafel.
We baked them in the oven rather than deep-fried them as it’s a lot less hassle. Be sure to use plenty of parsley, cumin, coriander and chilli powder to spice up the millet. The resulting falafel were crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy in the centre, just as they should be.
Be careful when cooking millet as it has a tendency to stick to the pan if you don’t keep an eye on it and stir regularly. We found it best to rinse and soak it for a few hours before cooking as this reduces the time needed to cook it.
Ingredients (makes 12-16 falafel)
150 g millet
300 ml water or vegetable stock
one garlic clove
one bunch of parsley
one teaspoon cumin
one teaspoon coriander
one teaspoon chilli powder
Sesame seeds to coat the falafel
Rinse and then soak the millet in a pan for four hours. Drain the millet and cover with water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Stir regularly as the millet will stick to the bottom of the pan if not watched carefully.
Finely chop the parsley, both leaves and stalks, mince the garlic clove and add to the cooked millet. Add the spices – if you want to give your falafel more oomph, double the amount. Mix well and then form into balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and then place on a tray and oven bake for 20 minutes at 200 c, or until the falafel turn a golden-brown colour.
Serve in pita bread with salad and sauces of your choice or as part of a salad – we made one from cucumber, tomato, spring onion, celery, red cabbage and radish. These falafel will keep in the fridge for a few days so you can cook a large batch at the same time.
With movement getting ever more restricted in the lockdown — we’re now limited to not going more than 500 m from our flat in Almaty, which rules out big supermarkets for shopping trips, maintaining a supply of fresh ingredients is becoming more tricky – so this is the time when beansprouts come into their own…
So, this time round we’ll be looking at some things you can do in the home, such as sprouting beans and lentils, to add a fresh, nutritious kick to your salads and stir-fries. We’ve gone for mung beans which are easy to sprout – your first crop will be ready in a matter of days and all you need is a glass jar and some mesh netting (we re-purposed a yoga mat bag by recycling the nylon mesh for our sprouter).
Here are the steps for germinating mung beans:
Select clean, undamaged mung beans and wash them thoroughly.
Sterilise your glass jar and mesh lid with boiling water and/or in a hot oven.
Fill the jar about a quarter of the way with washed beans.
Soak the beans in cold water in the jar for at least four hours.
Drain off all the water and put the jar in a cool, dark cupboard.
Rinse the mung beans a few times a day with cold water and drain the liquid off.
After two or three days, your first crop will be ready for eating.
When the sprouts are around 2-3 cm long, put them in the fridge until using.
Warning: Raw bean sprouts can lead to food poisoning if not prepared in sterile conditions and regularly washed with clean water.
If the sprouts look slimy or smell strange, throw them away.
Once sprouted, store the sprouts in the fridge and try to use them as quickly as possible.
And don’t forget to wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food.
This week’s offering – a soup made from chickpeas and carrots, was inspired by a recent visit to a funky Central Asian restaurant called Saksaul in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. This soup appeared on the menu, but unfortunately there wasn’t any left that day. Spotting yellow carrots on sale in the market after returning home, we decided to cook up our own version.
Our soup contains two ingredients that are common in the cookery of Samarkand in Uzbekistan – chickpeas and yellow carrots. Not all carrots are orange in Central Asia, you can even find black ones on occasion, but we find these yellow ones particularly sweet and tasty.
This famed Silk Road city of Samarkand provided further inspiration for our golden potage with spices such as cumin, coriander and turmeric that are still bought and sold along this ancient trade route.
Ingredients (makes 4 portions)
500 g yellow carrots
500 g chickpeas
Two yellow onions
Two garlic cloves
Two teaspoons mustard seeds
Two teaspoons chilli powder
Two teaspoons cumin seeds
Two teaspoons coriander seeds
Two teaspoons turmeric
50 ml vegetable oil
One litre vegetable stock
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over a medium heat for five minutes. Add the other spices and mix well.
Next add the diced carrot and stir to coat the carrot with the mix. Cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and stir well, then add the stock and reduce to a low heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes or so.
Using a stick blender, liquidise the soup. Pour into bowls and garnish with chickpeas and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Serve with bread – we used a flatbread but any crusty bread will work just as well.
Welcome back to Knidos Cookery Club, or KCC to those in the know. This time we’ll be whipping up some hummus spiked with the super-spice turmeric – it’s easier than you think and once you’ve tasted homemade hummus we’ll be surprised if you settle for a shop bought one again.
There are a lot of claims around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea as to where hummus originated, but ownership of this dip has now become truly international – we first came across this turmeric-infused version in Mexico earlier this year.
Toasted sesame seeds
Add olive oil, and you have tahini
You’ll need some tahini (sesame seed paste) to make this recipe, but don’t worry if you can’t track any down – it’s simple to prepare your own batch of this nutty-tasting spread. Toast 50 g of sesame seeds in a frying pan (without oil) over a low heat and shake continuously until they turn from white to a golden colour. Then mix with 50 ml of olive oil in a blender and, hey presto, you have tahini. Add more oil for a runnier consistency.
Ingredients (makes around 300 g)
250 g cooked chickpeas
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of a lemon
25 ml chickpea water
1 teaspoon turmeric
0.5 teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds
1 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder
Place all the ingredients into a bowl, except for the paprika and cumin (or caraway) seeds. Mix with the blender setting or with a hand blender. Keep mixing until you have a creamy, smooth paste. If needed, add more of the reserved chickpea water or lemon juice to achieve a smoother consistency.
Allow to chill in the fridge for a few hours then mix in the cumin (or caraway) seeds. Sprinkle the paprika over the top and serve with slices of cucumber and carrot.