I love falafels, but until last week I had not succeeded in making decent ones. There is a good deal of variation between recipes. One I have seen suggests concocting the mixture by grounding up raw chick peas. Several contain grated onions, which, in my experience, make the patties or balls too soft: they absorb a huge amount of oil. Other efforts have fallen to bits. Recipe writers disagree over whether the falafels should be bound by flour, or by breadcrumbs and egg.
At last, I have had success, thanks to the ever-excellent Grub Street's reissue of Vegetarian Dishes of the Middle East by the late Arto der Haroutunian. (The company's website was not working when I checked.) What follows is an adaptation of his recipe: I used the quantity of chick peas that came in a jar rather than the 450g in his version, and I upped the cumin content. If you have a tin (standard drained weight: 225g) or two tins, you can adjust the quantities accordingly.
400g cooked chick peas
Salt, to taste (bottled or tinned chick peas may already be salty)
1/2tsp black pepper
1tsp cumin, toasted over a gentle heat in a dry saucepan and ground
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed with a little salt
1tbsp tahini or olive oil
50g white breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
Sunflower oil, for deep frying
Whizz the chick peas in a food processor. Scrape the sides of the jug, and keep whizzing until you have a paste, which does not have to be completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in all the other ingredients except the flour and sunflower oil. You want a thick, sticky mass. If it won't cohere, add a little water.
Heat the oil -- you may need about a litre -- in a saucepan over a medium flame.
Form the chick pea mixture into balls or patties of whatever size you like. I went for eight patties. Roll them in flour.
Test the oil by dropping in a little piece of bread. If it sizzles, add the falafels -- I cooked them four at a time. You want them to take about five minutes to brown (so that they cook through), so adjust the flame accordingly. When they are ready, lift them from the oil with a slotted spoon on to paper towels. Then put them on to a plate in a very low oven while you cook the next batch.
We ate them with Greek yoghurt. Mine had minced garlic and chillis (fresh) stirred in.