Just falafs


Happy New Year! We’ve popped out the other side of the silly season feeling pretty darn relaxed, having recently returned from a cracker of a holiday in beautiful Apollo Bay with friends.
How’s the weather?! My heart goes out to Northern hemisphere relatives and readers, suffering through their bone-chilling cold snap. Melbourne is facing the opposite extreme, with the mercury hovering around 43°C (109°F) all week. YUK! We’re on school holidays and have been hitting the local beach daily, straight after breakfast, to loll in the water for an hour or two before heading home for crafting, movies and reading with the curtains drawn.
Dinner for us during a heat-wave is a no-brainer – salad! I whipped up this Roast eggplant (aubergine), farro and chickpea layered salad to take to a potluck dinner a while ago. The top layer is the classic Middle Eastern combination of roast eggplant, fresh cherry tomatoes, parsley and creamy tahini sauce; nestled on a bed of chickpeas and nutty faro. Delicious! Loving farro at the moment. We’re bored with quinoa; and have been alternating between farro and freekeh. Both are absolutely bursting with nutrients. Farro (AKA emmer, the Hebrew word for mother) is an ancient variety of wheat, not dissimilar in flavour to barley, with more protein than brown rice. My salad features cracked farro as it’s easier to cook and less chewy than full-grain.
Regular readers will know that this blog is about preparing two meals from one; so half the farro salad (minus the top vegetable layer) is set aside to be put to use in falafel. I’ve always added grain to my falafel, usually burghul (bulger) and most recently freekeh; and farro is equally delicious. By making use of the reserved salad components, the falafel groundwork is done; namely the chickpea and farro preparation, onion slicing and parsley chopping. The mixture is simply tipped into your food processor with 4 extra ingredients, rolled into balls, fried, and voila! Lovely moist falafel with a crispy coating; on your table in no time.
Notes: I bought a falafel scoop recently and was all set to extol the virtues of it in this post, but on my second test and tweak of these recipes I hand-rolled the falafel and have decided I prefer less-uniform, homely little balls, as do my boys.
Pickled turnips are a must with falafel. They cut through the creaminess of the tahini sauce adding a lovely burst of zing. Michelle’s recipe is great (I posted a picture of mine, using Michelle’s recipe, here); but you can buy them at your local Middle Eastern takeaway if you’re pushed for time.
Footnote: So thrilled to have this salad shared on thekitchn as part of their farro feature post! Thanks so much.

Farro, eggplant and chickpea saladFarro and chickpea salad with tahini sauce[Recipe 1] Roast eggplant, farro and chickpea layered salad with tahini sauce

Ingredients (serves 8 people for 2 meals; ie salad for 8 plus falafel for 8):
250g (9 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzos), soaked overnight (or canned, see notes)
2½ cups (500g) cracked farro

1 large red (purple/Spanish) onion, quartered and very thinly sliced
3 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for scattering
Note: you’ll be reserving half of the above ingredients for the falafel

1 lemon, juiced (approx. ¼ cup juice) 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
2 medium eggplants (aubergines), thickly sliced
Salt, extra, for sprinkling on eggplant

2 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing on eggplant
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Double quantity tahini sauce (you’ll be reserving a portion to serve with the falafel)

Drain soaked chickpeas, place into a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 40–50 minutes until just tender. Take care not to overcook them as they should retain a bit of bite. Drain again and place in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place the farro in a large saucepan of water, bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again; pushing down with the back of a fork to extract excess water. Spread cooked farro out on a tray to dry for ten minutes. Add to the chickpeas. Allow to cool, then stir through the red onion and parsley.
♦ Reserve ½ of the undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley (about 6 cups) for the Falafel with farro and chickpeas.
Place lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Drizzle over the remaining chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley; add pepper, and toss gently. Arrange on a large platter.
To prepare eggplant, preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Season eggplant slices with the extra salt. Set aside for ten minutes. Rinse slices with water, pat dry with a clean tea towel and brush with olive oil. Place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 30 minutes. Chop roughly and arrange on top of the dressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley; followed by the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle with tahini sauce, and scatter with extra parsley.
♦ Return any unused tahini sauce to the fridge for serving with the the Falafel with farro and chickpeas.

  • Components for salad can be prepared a day ahead. Farro, chickpeas, red onion and parsley can be mixed together (remember to decant half this mixture and set aside for the falafel). Lemon dressing, tahini sauce and roasted eggplants should be stored in separate containers in the fridge. A couple of hours before serving the salad, stir through lemon dressing and arrange eggplant chunks and halved tomatoes on top. Drizzle tahini sauce and scatter extra parsley over the salad at the table.
  • 250g (9 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzos) yields approximately 3 cups cooked chickpeas. You can replace the cooked chickpeas in this recipe with 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed.
    Note: 1 x 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, yields 1½ cups cooked chickpeas.
  • Cracked farro is available in specialty food stores, Mediterranean grocers and health food stores. In Australia, it can be purchased online from Mount Zero and Oasis. If unavailable, replace with pearled farro and increase cooking time to 30 minutes.
  • Reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley (for falafel) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Leftover salad is great for lunch!

Falafel with farro and chickpeas

[Recipe 2] Falafel with farro and chickpeas

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
6 cups reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt

½ cup besan flour
Vegetable oil, for shallow frying
To serve:
♦ Reserved tahini sauce
Pickled turnip, store-bought (or try Michelle’s easy recipe)
Tomato and cucumber salad
4 pita or lavash breads, store-bought (or try Sawsan’s fabulous pita recipe)

♦ Place reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley into food processor. Add garlic, cumin, salt and flour. Process until mixture starts to round over, forming a ball. Add a little more flour if mixture appears too wet. Take care not to over-mix; a bit of texture is good.
If your processor is too small to handle the full quantity of mixture; process in 2 batches with 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup besan flour in each. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour, then use your hands to roll approximately 48 walnut-sized balls.
Pour oil into a deep-sided frying pan, to a height of about 1cm and heat. Test whether the oil is ready by dropping a few breadcrumbs in the pan. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the oil. Cook falafel in batches, for 3 minutes each side, until dark golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Spread each pita or lavash bread with tahini sauce, scatter with pickled turnip and follow with tomato and cucumber salad. Top with 4 or 5 falafel. Roll up and enjoy!

  • Yield: If hand-rolling, you’ll end up with 48 walnut-sized balls. With a falafel scoop, mixture will yield 24 flat falafal. 
  • Fussy kid tip: Children may prefer shredded lettuce, plain Greek yogurt and grated carrot with their falafel. Kid-friendly hummus and Beetroot hummus are also lovely accompaniments.
  • Pickled turnip is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores. You may find your local Middle Eastern takeaway will sell you a small container (thanks Manakish)! 
  • Besan flour (or gram flour) is made from ground chickpeas (garbanzos) and is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores, Indian and Pakistani grocers and select health food stores. It can be used in veggie burgers, rice balls and pakoras; is gluten-free, high in protein and much tastier than plain flour.
  • Leftover falafel can be eaten cold the next day, or lightly warmed in a hot oven, covered with foil. Don’t be tempted to microwave them as they’ll very unattractively fall apart!

54 thoughts on “Just falafs

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  4. Hey, I just discovered your blog and I already LOVE it! I love the concept of using leftovers for a completely different meal! I was looking for a chickpea salad and here you come…thx!! I’ll be back 🙂

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  6. Made the salad tonite- really lovely and just right for this unseasonal hot weather in April. Since I was busy and could not seek out the farro grain used cous cous- should I try the falafel or do you think that would be a disaster? Love the tahini yoghurt sauce- it is really delish!

    • Hi Fran. This weather is just insane isn’t it! Last week I pulled my cardies and jeans out of mothballs; today I’m back to baring my arms!
      Rapt you liked the salad! I’m not sure couscous would be a good addition to falafel… I always add grain to falafel for nuttiness & nutrients. Freekeh & farro are both great; but I suspect couscous might make the mix a tad starchy & doughy. I reckon if you do give it a try, it’d be best not to overly process the mixture. You could even fish out a few chickpeas and hand mash them before stirring into the final processed mix; or add cooked lentils, crushed peas or grated carrot, for a bit of texture! Let me know how you go. Signed, curious.

      • As I suspected- I decided to forgo the experiment and try again later with the correct grain which was lucky really as the remaining cous cous was quickly carted off to be used for lunch by the ever insanely hungry husband! And also joining the ranks the 13 year old slash 15 year old appetite ( growing by the minute)!

  7. Hi. I made falafels last week but they weren’t quite as good looking as yours, I guess I’ll just have to keep trying! Your salad also looks tasty and I love the concept of your site, what an original idea. I’m from Australia too, though I’m living in France now to escape those awful heat waves 😉

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  9. This is seriously the best food in the world, I reckon. Thanks for this Saskia — I am definitely going to be making BOTH of these! Great crowd pleasers. I agree re quinoa — I find it a bit ‘nothing’, though oddly I have enjoyed using it as a replacement for oats when I run out at breakfast time. Farro and freekeh all the way!
    Hope you and your three boys are well, young lady.

    • Thanks Sandra! And thanks for calling me ‘young lady’; that made my day 🙂
      I’ve never tasted quinoa porridge, and it has been on my list of things to try for ever. I might sneak a bit into this morning’s brekkie and see how it goes down. Wish me luck.

  10. Both dishes look gorgeous and are making me hungry just as I’m getting ready for breakfast! I have been experimenting with tahini lately and I love it’s flavor. I hope your heat wave does not last too long. These meals are the perfect thing after a day in the sun!

    • It’s a kooky sensation looking at other people’s dinner while enjoying your morning coffee; a little like admiring pics of snow-capped mountains and icy lakes, while in the middle of a heatwave! Your photos have been a lovely respite! Melbourne’s weather has been pretty scorching and unrelenting, but a lovely whisper of cool breeze arrived last night… pure bliss.
      PS. Love tahini too.

  11. Oh Saskia, my mouth is watering over both these meals…right up my alley!!! I actually have a chickpea and farro dish on my blog too…just different flavors. I agree, farro is great and a nice change. I love the texture of it and I hear you on being bored with quinoa. I’m kind of sick of it lately….but it’s just so good for you! That tahini sauce I bet is awesome on those balls. So good! Everything is so pretty and colorful too.

    • Thanks so much Brandi! Can’t wait to check out your recipe – farro is my grain of the month; although quinoa has been creeping back into our meals again. Can’t resist! As you said, it’s just so darn nutritious. The tahini sauce is great, really simple. I make mine without garlic as my boys prefer it that way. It makes for a milder, creamier sauce; not too overpowering – I could almost drink it straight.

  12. Saskia,
    First off, thank you so much for the shout out.
    I am terribly sorry it took me forever and a day to get here. My husband got a job transfer to the UAE, it was sudden and unexpected. That meant that I had to take a trip back home to finish some necessary paper work. He is leaving now and me and the kids will follow when the school year ends. As you can imagine life has been a little extra crazy here this past month.

  13. The salad looks fantastic, and the felafel for me even better! I love them, but in the past have ended up with rock solid balls not soft on the inside balls! I need to pay attention to what I add into the mix. I also need to find pickled turnips as those intrigue me.

    • Thanks Clare. These are definitely soft on the inside. Nothing more disappointing than a rock hard falafel! Pickled turnips are amazing – I’m a bit addicted at the moment. And they look so good too; always a bonus! My local Middle Eastern takeaway sells them to me as a special favour, but I’m keen to try making them. The recipe looks very doable.

    • Aw thanks Dedy. I love roasting eggplant with just a little oil, and they still manage to retain their creaminess and good looks! Fried eggplant is of course completely divine but they’re basically natural sponges!

  14. Your salad looks beautiful and is perfect for when it is too hot to cook. I’ll save this recipe and make it this summer when we have some good tomatoes from our garden. I’m going to try and find cracked farro at one of our markets.

    • Thanks Karen. Lucky you having tomatoes in your garden. I’ve attempted to grow them a couple of times but the possums make a meal of them as soon as they’re ripe! Last year they teasingly left me ONE perfect cherry tomato.

  15. Both of these recipes look great and perfect for summer! Hope you’ve coped with the heatwave ok. Am glad it’s over. Some normal temperatures would be nice for a change now!
    Love that burlap sack your dishes are on!

    • Thanks Ali! SO glad to be back to normal weather again too. It’s snaking up to the 30s here again this week, but that’s relatively cool compared to Thursday. 44° was just revolting. I burnt my leg on the metal seat belt clasp in our car!

  16. I was just thinking about your blog this morning…hadn’t seen your loveliness in awhile. 🙂 I’m loving’ farro right now too! I can’t believe how expensive it is to buy over here, but well worth it. Your salad is beautiful. Everything about it, the layering, the textures…the plate! Love the plate. I think it is time I make my own falafel using your recipe. How easy to just buy the imported box, add water…and ahem, fry! Inspired again by you and happy to see you back.

    • Oh, thank you so much! Glad to be back too. Can’t believe how quickly time has flown. Have had such a lovely Summer break – lots of battery re-charging, cobweb clearing and all those other vacation metaphors! I do love that plate too. It was a hand-made wedding gift many years ago and we’ve used it constantly. Home-made felafels are the best. You’ll never go back to the powder in a box! 🙂

    • Thanks Norma. Hope you’re managing to stay warm. I know you’d be whipping up some nourishing comfort food, and you are the queen of lovely soups! It’s cold rice salad for us tonight, if I can tolerate standing near boiling water in this weather.

  17. This looks fabulous sas. We’re at Fairhaven – like you swimming and eating salads. Picked up delicious ingredients at the Aireys market and will go out in search of farro before quinoa fatigue sets in! Thanks for the beautiful recipes. X

    • Thanks so much Michelle. Fairhaven – how beautiful! Love that spot, and its proximity to Aireys! Lucky you. I’m picturing you all splashing around and feeling the teensiest bit envious. Enjoy. x

  18. This looks amazing Sas, as per usual!! Yum, I adore falafel, I’ve never made my own but now you’ve given me the perfect reason to try! I agree re quinoa… it’s been a bit overdone over the past year and I’ve gotten to the point where it’s a bit ‘meh’ in my repertoire also. I’m revisiting bulgur and I love freekeh; I’m yet to try farro though! Definitely need to get my hands on some and try this delicious pairing. Glad that your new year is going well so far! Oh… and uniformity is overrated 😉 x

    • Thanks Laura! There are just so many interesting grains around aren’t there. It’s mind-boggling standing in the grain section of the local health store. I must say freekeh is my personal fave, but farro is great too. It’s commonly used in Italy, and fab in minestrone, not that I want to even *think* about hot soup today. It just hit 42°C! I hate to whine, but I’m severely over it. Cool change predicted for the end of tomorrow. Bring it on!! Hope Perth is cooler. x

  19. It’s lovely to find you in my reader again Sas! Sounds like you are having lovely holidays; I’m so envious of the beach time (going in the water when it’s roasting hot is the best time, isn’t it?!) you are enjoying. Keep enjoying it for us 🙂 Well, you’ve done it again. Every time I think you’ve posted the most beautiful dish ever, you go and do it again, and you usually out-do it! That layered salad is stunning and calling my name. I’ve been in a more Middle East inspired food in terms of eating lately, so this is a perfect fit for me; I’ve got a lot of the things required on hand. Check! I must try this now!

    • Thanks so, so much for your beautiful comment df. I’m blushing! 🙂
      Hope you’re surviving the polar vortex in your neck of the woods. I can’t even imagine enduring that kind of cold. Off to visit your blog soon – have so much catching up to do. xx

      • Oh, it’s well deserved, Sas! And I love your post title! Thankfully we’ve had it really mild for the past few days, so while it’s icy and not fun for walking without snowshoes or crampons in many parts, it’s at least a respite from that deep cold.

    • Ohhhh, lucky you! I would love to be back in Apollo Bay right now. The weather is absolutely foul isn’t it! Our poor black cat is lying flat on his back, and the little birds in our garden have their beaks wide open.

  20. Hows the weather? Its winter here, YUK! 🙂 This is brilliant, I love falafels and have never got around to trying to make them. Maybe I should, yours looks so lovely. Have a great year! xx

  21. beautiful colors and perfect for this hot so cal weather here (not as hot as yours i hear!) just pinned this beauty and i love the recycled printed burlap sack cloth. gotta catch up on my blog reading here. seems i’ve been off in another planet..

    • Thanks for pinning Kim! I have some serious blog reading to catch up on too, starting with yours! Yeah, love the burlap sack too – it’s from a cute little local vintage shop, Nook, dangerously close to my work.

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