recipe: ta’meyya (egyptian falafels)

You’re probably with falafels made from chickpeas, but Egyptian falafels are made from fava beans. Fava beans are a staple of the Egyptian diet. So much so the Egyptian word for falafel, ta’meyya derives from the word “food”. I love the bitter and nutty taste of fava beans and prefer them over the more well known chickpea based falafel. Then again, I’m biased since I love all things Egyptian.

Although a straight forward process, falafel making is a time consuming task. The only special equipment you need is a food processor or blender, to blend the beans into a paste. There’s no need to use a deep fryer to fry the falafels, a large pot and frying oil will do the trick just as well. My frying oil of choice is peanut oil, but in Egypt sunflower oil or vegetable oil are more commonly used in cooking. As for baking falafels, you can’t see me right now, but I’m frowning. Some of the best things in life are fried, you know.

Just a heads up to anyone out there who is like me, the kind of person who doesn’t read recipes until I’m just about to start cooking – this recipe requires the beans to soak for 24-48 hours and there are a lot of time consuming steps involved. They’re definitely worth the effort, if you’re looking for a taste of Egypt… in fried form.

(adapted from Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

1 pound dried and skinless fava beans (broad beans), soaked for 24-48 hours
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
cayenne pepper or chili pepper (optional, to taste)
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup parsley
1 cup cilantro
2 leeks, white and green parts
6 scallions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
frying oil (I used peanut oil)

In a large pot, soak the beans in a generous amount of water for 24-48 hours. Change the water a couple times a day. After the beans have finished soaking, pour out the water into the sink and spread out the beans on a large towel on a hard surface. Let the beans dry for about an hour.

After the beans have had time to dry a bit, put them in a food processor and pulse until the beans form a paste. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Add the spices and baking soda and pulse a few more times until the spices have mixed through, or until the paste is smooth. Let the mixture rest for a half hour.

Meanwhile, wash and chop the parsley, cilantro, leeks, scallions, and mince the garlic. Add them all to a very large mixing bowl, along with the bean paste and knead with your hands until mixed through. Take small clumps of the mixture and patties that are 2 inches in diameter roughly 1/4 inch thick or into balls the size of golf balls. Optionally, dip the falafels into a bowl full of sesame seeds just before frying.

Heat a large stock pot with at least 2 inches of frying oil. Working in batches, fry the falafels in batches until brown, turning over once. Transfer the falafels to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot.

Serving variations:

– With hummus or tahini
– With pickled vegetables
– In a wrap or pita bread with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tahini sauce or hummus
– In a salad

Serves 6

Originally posted in February 2011

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