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!

Get ya freekeh on

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I freeking love freekeh! Freekeh (pronounced ‘free-ka’) is dried immature durum wheat. As it’s harvested early, while the grains are still soft and green, it contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than geriatric wheat. It’s also Low GI and packed with fibre. I tried it for the first time at my neighbour’s house a while ago – they whipped up Andrew McConnell’s beautiful cracked wheat and freekah salad with barberry dressing, which is on the menu at Cumulus Inc. I loved it; and have been on a freekeh kick ever since.
After a lot of tweaking and testing I’ve created my own freekeh concoction; Freekeh salad with mixed nuts and roasted tomatoes. I’ve brought it along to two BBQs recently – that’s us below, carting it off to a Día de Muertos party last weekend. Those roasted tomatoes go rather nicely with my dress don’t you think?
As this blog is all about creating two meals from one; I prepared a large quantity of the cooked freekeh, onion and garlic mixture and reserved half to use in a pretty damn delicious Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet (Swiss chard) and lemon soup; which we polished off for dinner with crusty bread. The leftover soup was frozen in lunch-sized portions to take to work. I usually make this soup with leftover cooked brown rice but freekeh was a fab substitute, and not as heavy as brown rice. This recipe is a definite keeper.
PS. If you’re scratching your head in puzzlement about the title of this post, here is the musical inspiration. It’s an excellent, slightly mental, track to cook along to.

Day of the Dead 2013Freekeh salad with roasted tomatoesFreekeh salad with mixed nuts[Recipe 1] Freekeh salad with mixed nuts and roasted tomatoes

Ingredients (serves 8 for 2 meals; ie salad for 8 + 8 serves of soup):
4 large Roma tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil for brushing
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g (1 lb) cracked greenwheat freekeh, soaked in 2½ cups water for 15 minutes, drained (note: you’ll be reserving half the cooked freekeh/onion/garlic for the soup)
4 cups water, extra
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup (70g) slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup (70g) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
50g (1¾ oz) baby spinach leaves
½ – 1 cup each roughly chopped mint and parsley
Lemon pomegranate dressing:
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, warmed (replace with honey if unavailable)

Preheat oven to 160°C (320ºF).
Place halved tomatoes, cut side up, onto a tray lined with baking paper. Brush each with olive oil, and roast for 1 hour. Carefully turn each tomato over and roast for a further 20–25 minutes to allow the juices to drain off. Cut each in half and set aside to drain on kitchen paper until required.
Heat extra oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, until just fragrant (onion needn’t be completely soft).
Add prepared cracked freekeh and mix well. Add water. Bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Spread out on a tray (or 2 large plates) to dry for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Combine lemon juice, zest, olive oil and pomegranate molasses in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Set aside.

♦ Reserve half of the cooked freekeh and onion mixture (4 heaped cups) for the Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup.
Place remaining cooked freekeh and onion mixture in a large bowl. Add prepared dressing and mix well. Add salt, pepper, nuts, spinach and chopped herbs and toss lightly to combine. Arrange roasted tomatoes on top and serve.

  • This recipe uses cracked grain freekeh. If you’re using whole-grain freekeh, simmering time should be increased according to the packet. 
  • Freekeh and pomegranate molasses are available from specialty and health food stores (including my favourite locals, The Essential Ingredient and Aunt Maggies). You can also check this page for Australian and International stockists of freekeh; or buy it online at the Greenwheat Freekeh Australian online shop or Freekehlicious USA. Freekeh is also widely stocked at Middle Eastern Grocers.
  • This salad (and the planned-overs) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Chicken soup with freekeh and lemon

[Recipe 2] Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken legs, skin on
2 large carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves

♦ 4 heaped cups reserved cooked freekeh and onion mixture
8 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought (plus extra if required*)
1 bunch silverbeet (Swiss chard), 8–10 stalks, green part only, finely shredded
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry chicken legs over a medium heat, turning, for 10 minutes, until browned.
Add carrot, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, reserved cooked freekeh and onion mixture and stock. Mix well.
*Note: we like our soup thick. Feel free to add more stock as required.
Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently, covered, for 40 minutes.
Remove and discard bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Add silverbeet and simmer, covered, for a further 20 minutes.
Using tongs, place chicken legs on a board. With two forks shred the meat from the bones. Discard bones and skin. Return shredded meat to the soup.
Add lemon juice and season to taste (if using store-bought stock, the soup may be salty enough).
Serve, with lemon wedges for squeezing.

  • Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Fussy kid tip: If lemon and silverbeet are likely to give your child the heebie-jeebies, stir a couple of tablespoons of cooked corn kernels, or even creamed corn, into their soup portion. My 6-year old laps it up with either of these additions.

Feeling a bit seedy

This isn’t a planned-overs recipe, but I wanted to share it anyway as I loved it, and the husband gave it a big thumbs up too.
I’ve been trotting out the cranberry, ginger, mint and macadamia combo for years, but have always served it with couscous. Recently I replaced the couscous with amaranth seeds and it was fantastic!
I know – amaranth is the groovy ancient seed du jour, especially in blogland; but it lives up to the hype. It’s similar to quinoa, but not as bitter; and it’s so pretty, like miniature pearls. It’s also FULL of protein and fibre. Served with haloumi, it makes a lovely light dinner; and the leftovers are fab for lunch the next day.

My original intention was to create cookies from a reserved portion of the cooked amaranth and cranberries. I’ll admit it – I was extremely excited as I thought they’d be amazing. I even enlisted my lovely 11-year old gluten-intolerant niece as my kitchen assistant and taste-tester. OMG, those cookies were disgusting! Awful texture, chewy and unpleasant. I did have a nice time cooking and chatting with my niece though.
So, I didn’t want to waste the salad recipe. Do give it a try – it’s honestly scrumptious.
Footnote: Thank you Redbook for featuring this salad in your ’11 Supergrain Spring Salads’ roundup!

Amaranth, cranberry and orange saladAmaranth, cranberry and mint salad with macadamias and haloumi

Ingredients (serves 3–4):
1 heaped cup (250gm/½ lb) whole-grain amaranth (not flakes)

½ cup (75gm/2½ oz) craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
½ cup shredded mint leaves, plus extra to serve
½ red (Spanish/purple) onion, finely sliced
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
½ cup (80g/3 oz) macadamia nuts, chopped and toasted
120g (4 oz) haloumi (Greek frying cheese), cut into 1cm (½ in) slices
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying cheese
Lemon wedges, to serve
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon finely-grated fresh ginger (or more – to taste)

Bring 3 cups of water to the boil in a medium pot. Add the amaranth and craisins and simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Drain in a fine mesh sieve. Spread amaranth and craisins out on a tray and set aside for ten minutes to dry. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine. Add to the amaranth and craisins, along with the mint and onion. Toss lightly. Season.
Rinse haloumi with water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and lightly fry the haloumi until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes each side.
Serve the amaranth salad, scattered with toasted macadamia nuts and extra mint.
Lay the haloumi slices on top or serve separately on a platter.

  • This salad is a ripper to take to work for lunch. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Amaranth is a tiny, gluten-free South American seed similar to quinoa. I cook mine for half the time noted on the packet as I like it with a bit of bite and nuttiness. It becomes quite porridge-like the longer you cook it. It is available from health food stores and markets.
  • Haloumi is a non-meltable cheese from Greece, made for pan-frying. It is salty and delicious. My boys love it, and refer to it as ‘squeaky cheese’. It is best eaten immediately as it rubberises upon standing. It is available from large supermarkets, specialty cheese stores and delicatessens.

A star is corn

[Recipe 1] ROAST CORN, QUINOA and PEA SALAD transforms into 
This Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad is an absolute ripper; zingy and zesty and perfect for Spring. I’ve based the recipe on one our friends Eileesh and Michael made for us last Summer. They barbecued their corn, but the weather isn’t quite warm enough for me to lift the BBQ lid yet (or clean the damn thing!), so I’ve roasted my corn in the oven instead. Eileesh and Michael’s salad featured roasted red pepper, which was fantastic; but I’ve swapped it for fresh peas as they looked so pretty at the market AND I reckon corn and peas are the perfect marriage.
You can serve the salad as is, or alongside chargrilled lamb, chicken or fresh tuna. It’s easy to modify for children and even babies – see tips below the recipe.
Reserve a portion of the salad (undressed) and you can make a batch of fabulous Corn, pea and quinoa fritters for dinner the following night. My boys adore these, and so do we! Ciao for now.

Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad[Recipe 1] Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for 2 meals; ie. salad for 6, fritters for 4):
500g (1 lb) white quinoa, rinsed and drained

6 corn cobs, silk and husks removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
400g (14 oz) fresh podded peas (start with 1 kilo/2¼ lb unpodded)
3 cups coriander (cilantro), chopped
3 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
(Note: you’ll be reserving ⅓ of the above undressed salad ingredients for Recipe 2 below)

Lime chilli dressing:
½ cup lime juice (from 3–4 limes)
3 teaspoons lime zest, chopped

2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey, warmed slightly

½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place corn cobs onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, blanch the peas in boiling water for 3–4 minutes, drain and add to the corn.
Combine quinoa and 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered, for ten minutes or until water has been absorbed. Spread quinoa out on a tray and set aside for ten minutes to dry. Add to the corn kernels and peas, along with the coriander and parsley.
♦ Reserve ⅓ of the undressed Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad (about 6 cups) for the Corn, pea and quinoa fritters (recipe 2).
To make the lime chilli dressing, place dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Drizzle dressing over the remaining salad and toss gently.
Salad serves 6 (or 8 as a side).

  • Quinoa is a gluten-free South American seed, available from health food stores and from the health section of large supermarkets. It’s very high in protein and has a lovely nutty flavour.
  • You can use 400g (14 oz) frozen peas instead of fresh podded peas. Blanch in boiling water for 1–2 minutes.
  • You can prepare the salad one day ahead. Store the prepared quinoa and dressing in separate containers. Store the cooked corn and peas together. Herbs should be prepared and added close to serving time.
  • Leftover salad is fab for lunch!
  • Undressed salad, reserved for the fritters, can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Baby tip: Before adding the dressing and herbs, you can puree a portion of corn, peas and quinoa, for babies over 8 months old. 
  • Fussy kid tip: To modify the salad for kids, stir a small can of drained tuna, and 1 tablespoon of egg mayonnaise through 1 or 2 cups of dressed or undressed (as preferred) salad. You can even add a chopped boiled egg. Voila! Healthy, kid-friendly tuna salad. 

Corn, pea and quinoa fritters[Recipe 2] Corn, pea and quinoa fritters

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 16–18 fritters):
1 cup (150g) plain (all-purpose) flour (gluten-free or regular)

1½ teaspoons salt
3 eggs, separated
½ cup (125ml) milk
♦ 6 cups reserved undressed Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad
3 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve green parts for serving)
Olive oil for shallow frying
Sliced avocado or guacamole, to serve

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk the egg yolks and milk in a separate bowl and gradually add to the dry ingredients, whisking until smooth.
♦ Add the reserved undressed Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad, and the spring onion whites, and stir well.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into the fritter mix.
Heat 1–2 tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Use a heaped ¼ cup of batter per fritter, and flatten lightly with a spatula. Fry 4 fritters at a time for about 2 minutes each side, until golden and firm to touch. If your stovetop is large enough to accommodate them, you can use two frying pans at a time.
Repeat with remaining batter. Fritters can be kept warm in a low oven, lightly covered with foil, until you’re ready to serve.
Serve fritters topped with sliced avocado or guacamole. Scatter with chopped green ends of spring onions.