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My first encounter with falafels was when I just turned 16. I started my first job at Danny’s Pita and pancake takeaway shop.  I don’t know why I was so eager to get a job, back then it was cool to work part-time at such a young age, nowadays, it seems quite the opposite.

The manager was a little old lady who reminded me of Angela Lansbury from “Murder she wrote”.  She was quite a tight lipped women but I think my enthusiasm enabled her to let out a grin every now and then.   She told me before I could be a cashier and work at the counter I had to get to know the food back in the kitchen first.  I spent 2 weeks of my school holidays in this steaming “galley” before being “promoted” to cashier.  To me, it felt like a demotion…I wanted to stay in the kitchen!

I spent 1 week chopping onions, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, I cubed deboned legs of lamb and chicken fillets until my hand cramped. I remember coming home exhausted as all hell smelling of a giant sweaty onion, but it felt good, I felt like I was becoming a “chef”!

The 2nd week consisted of helping the cooks prepare the food.   Microwave white sauce for the chicken, bisto gravy for the lamb, pancake batter, all the filling prep and falafels…

“Angela” (I can’t remember her name, God bless her soul) showed me how to make falafels from scratch. Falafel was a very foreign concept to me and the very thought of soaked chickpeas as the base unnerved me. I didn’t even know what a chickpea was!  We rolled the sticky concoction into little balls and submerged a few into the fryer.  They started smelling really good and funnily enough looked like meatballs – “can’t be that bad?”  One bite squeezed with a little lemon juice and I was in heaven…

Years on, I can happily say, I’m not a full-on chef but I most certainly work with food every day and I love it.

Here’s my falafel recipe:

Homemade falafels with grilled aubergine and pickled salad
The grilled aubergines and pickled salad are a must when you attempt these falafels. And don’t forget the ready hummus and tzatiki – there are really great ones available.

Serves: 4
Difficulty: easy
Prep time:  24 hours (overnight) and + – 1 hour
Cooking time: +- 15 minutes

250 g dried chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours
4 fat cloves garlic
4 spring onions, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ c (60 ml) chopped flat leaf parsley
½ c (125 ml) chopped coriander
1 t (5 ml) ground cumin
1 t (5 ml) ground coriander
2 ml chilli powder
3 ml bicarbonate of soda
2.5 ml salt
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Drain chickpeas and pat as dry as much as possible.
Place the chickpeas, garlic and onions to the food processor and pulse until smooth.
Add the rest of the falafel ingredients and pulse until well combined and creamy.
Spoon into a bowl, a give the mixture a good knead with your hands then leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Divide mixture into tablespoon sized balls and chill for another 20 minutes before frying. (the mixture will be quite sticky, don’t worry, they’ll firm up in the fridge.
When ready to serve: Heat oil and fry the falafels in batches for +- 2 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel.

Serve hot or cold in pitas with readymade tzatiki and hummus, grilled aubergine and pickled salad.

Grilled Aubergines:
1 aubergine, thinly sliced into rings
Olive oil and salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 T (45 ml) olive oil
Freshly ground Black pepper

Rub the sliced aubergines with olive oil and salt.
Heat a griddle pan and grill until charred on the both sides.
Place into a bowl and drizzle with juice and olive oil.
Season with black pepper

Pickled salad:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 baby cabbage, thinly sliced
¾ c (180 ml) red wine vinegar
2 T (30 ml ) sugar

Combine all the salad ingredients together and chill for as long as possible.
I asked around via twitter where I could find really good falafels in Cape Town…

@MilkandCookiesSA recommends Schwarma express and Sababa
@christiansmit rates Ari’s Souvlaki
@appetite_ct orders raw mixture from Anat and it freezes well – good tip!
@clairereddie gets her fix at Eastern Bazaar

Where’s your favourite place to get a falafel fix?

(Recipe by Carey Boucher Erasmus and published in Crush online magazine)


About The Author

Food consultant, recipe developer and stylist.

4 Responses

  1. ninatimm

    I absolutely adore falafels,,,,,, love all the extras you have made with them!

  2. rumtumtigger

    Aww, you great big sweaty onion ;). What a lovely story. I wonder if falafels came out of making too much hummus (been there, done that) and rolling them into balls and frying them was a great way to use them up…or maybe it was the other way around 😉 xx


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