To fry or bake? The secret to good falafel

To fry or bake? The secret to good falafel


That can be a dilemma! Most of us love fried food. I read somewhere it was an evolutionary instinct – the satisfying crunch from a snack of  insects enjoyed by our hunter gatherer ancestors has remained with us and is part of our taste DNA. This may seem a little far fetched, but without a doubt the satisfying crunch from crispy fried food is very satisfying and may well resemble the crunch from a grasshopper or other such insect that our less squeamish forebears enjoyed!

Sadly we often treat this as a guilty pleasure as we know too much oil is not good, and to bake or roast is a healthier alternative.  Although I am of the ‘little of what you fancy does you good’ persuasion, generally I try to keep away from frying -eg  I do not own a deep fat fryer, and favour baking if at all possible. However sometimes only frying will achieve the desired crunch and mouthfeel, and it is not always possible to compromise without spoiling the end result.

Falafel however lends itself to deep frying, shallow frying or baking. Each has different results, though equally as delicious. Time and time again the cookbook photo of the perfectly formed and beautifully browned rosti, falafel, patti or rissole does not resemble the deconstructed, unformed splodge in your frying. The reason for this is the moisture content in your mixture, so choose your recipe well.

Many recipes suggest the addition of breadcrumbs to firm up the mixture. Whilst this may work, the end result will be heavy and stodgy losing the delicate balance of the spices.  I prefer to use dried chickpeas remembering to soak them before use. Only cook half of the soaked chickpeas, the other half drain and dry off before putting in a food processor and grinding to resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the ground chickpeas to the remaining ingredients and it absorb any moisture in the mixture without the need to pack it out with bread. The resulting falafel will be lighter and the flavours more pronounced.  Once the mixture has chilled sufficiently, form into balls in your hands, squeezing together to ensure it binds tightly. Make the balls smallish and put in the fridge for as long as you can allow – preferably make in the morning to use in the evening.

Never overcrowd the frying pan. For crisp results you must ensure that there is as little moisture in the oil as possible. This is one of the main reasons they fall apart! it is tempting when you have 20 balls to fry for example and a nice big frying pan not to chuck them all in. Trust me, they will collapse! Restrain yourself and only fry in batches of four, keeping them warm in the oven until all are done. Alternatively you can bake them. Ensure the oven is a hot 200f and roll your chilled balls in a light oil. Place on a flat greased oven tray (with no or low sides) without touching each other and baake for 30 minutes. Check after 20 mins and roll them over to do the reverse sides.
For my recipe of perfect falafels see here






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