Just falafs

[Recipe 1] ROAST EGGPLANT, FARRO and CHICKPEA LAYERED SALAD with TAHINI SAUCE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FALAFEL with FARRO and CHICKPEAS

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!