There are many reasons why I love going to visit my parents in Dubai - the main one, of course, is seeing my parents and brother! But also on the top of my list is the food - the Arabic food to be exact. Regulars to my blog will know that I have lived a larger part of my younger years in the Persian Gulf countries and literally grew up on good Lebanese, Egyptian and Syrian cuisine. Thanks to the large expatriate community in these countries we had several friends from these countries who often spoilt us with their large mezzes and delicious dishes.
Usually when my mother announces "Meeta and Soeren are coming!" to her friends, she straight away gets invitations upon invitations for dinner parties or lunch get-togethers. I have a full calendar before I even have booked the tickets! It's fantastic really as I get to indulge in several delectable dishes, which often give me many ideas to try out in my own kitchen.
One of my all time favorites has got to be falafel, particularly made with a mixture of fava beans and chickpeas. Depending on where you are eating falafel you will find them made with either fava beans or chickpeas. The purists in Egypt will exclusively make falafel with fava beans, whereas in Lebanon they'll serve their falafel made with chickpeas. Having tried both I settled on making my own with a mixture of both legumes, basically as I love the flavor of fava beans and the chickpeas add a wonderful mellow, creamy highlight.
The traditional falafel originated from Egypt and were (and still are) made only with fava beans. As these wonderful fried balls of delight traveled throughout the Middle East the fava beans were replaced by chickpeas and it is indeed the chickpea falafel that has found immense popularity outside of Egypt.
Basically the legumes (whichever you choose) are soaked and if required, skinned, then they are ground or processed in a food processor with the addition of herbs and spice. Finally the individual patties are deep fried until brown and crispy. Often falafel is served as a type of sandwich in pita bread or other Arabic flat breads, topped with pickles and a tahini sauce.
Although I really like the sandwiched version, I prefer to enjoy falafel without the bread. With a side of wonderful minty tabouleh and a tangy yogurt tahini sauce, I personally find the meal more satisfying. I also like to add some sesame seeds to the falafel to give it a crunch and a lovely nutty aroma. Finally besides the cumin I also add a hint of sumac for that wonderful lemony flavor.
Sumac spice is that gorgeous delicate spice often used in Arabic cuisine. Sumac spice comes from berries harvested from a bush that can be found in the wild all across the Mediterranean. Not to be confused with poison sumac plant that flourishes in North America, even if it is a close relation! The fact that it has a more agreeable tart and tangy flavor sumac spice is very often substituted for lemon or vinegar.
Dried sumac spice is made by harvesting the small berries then dried and crushed, however, it can also be used fresh. By mashing the berries the resulting sumac juice can be used to flavor various dishes and sauces.
Arabic and Lebanese dishes rely heavily on sumac spice and use it as a spice rub on meats and kebabs. It can also be added to marinades, soups and stews, rice dishes, casseroles, salad dressings, dips, and many other dishes for additional components of flavor. Or simply use sumac spice as a condiment on the table to replace salt and pepper.
Sumac spice is often available outside of the Middle Eastern territories in a ground form, but sometimes the dried whole berries can be purchased in good sorted grocery stores or ethnic markets. One of the most popular herb/spice blend where sumac is used is in a blend called Za'atar, where sumac spice is mixed with thyme, salt, fennel, and other spices. Each Middle Eastern region does have it's own blend for Za'atar but these are usually the most common spices and herbs used.
I love using sumac in salads, on pizzas, with lamb or also in risottos and pilafs. It's a lovely versatile spice and the next time you are out shopping, see if you can pick up some sumac spice. I am sure you will love it.
I make the tabouleh with bulgur but if you don’t have it on hand use couscous instead. I prefer the course texture of bulgur, parsley and mint add a delicious herby flavor and sumac rounds it up perfectly.
Falafel with a Tahini Yogurt Sauce and a Minty TaboulehIngredients
[Prinatble version of recipe here]
250g dried fava beans, peeled and soaked overnight
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
handful of parsley, chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sumac spice
1 liter oil to fry
Yogurt Tahini Sauce
200g tahini paste (sesame paste)
1 garlic clove, mashed
150g Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
1 teaspoon sumac spice
Parsley & Mint Tabouleh
150g bulgur, cooked according to instructions on the packet
sea salt and pepper
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 ground cumin powder
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Yogurt Tahini Sauce
- Drain water from both, fava beans and chickpeas. Put both legumes in a food processor, along with the onions, garlic, parsley and mint and process until smooth.
- Add the egg yolk, breadcrumbs and chickpea flour and process further. You should have a thick paste-like consistency. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, cumin powder and sumac. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- With the falafel mixture make walnut sized balls and lightly roll in some sesame seeds. If the mixture begins to stick to your hands, moist them in cold water.
- Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or a large pot to approx. 180 degrees C.
- Add a few of the falafel balls into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes, turning the balls so that they evenly brown on all sides. Allow to drain on kitchen paper towels.
Parsley & Mint Tabouleh
- Add tahini paste, yogurt, garlic, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl and using a pureeing machine mix the mixture well.
- Season with salt, ground coriander powder and sumac.
- In a small mixing bowl whisk together lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and cumin powder and oil into a thick dressing.
- Using a fork loosen the bulgur. Place in a large salad bowl and add tomatoes, mint and parsley.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the bulgur and toss well. Allow for the flavors to infuse – approx. 1 hour. Sprinkle with sumac before serving.
Food Guide Tips:
- Ripe tomatoes – selecting and storing for perfect use
- More about cumin powder and coriander powder
- To see if the oil has reached the right temperature place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil and if small bubbles form around the handle your oil is ready.
- While frying the falafels only add a few balls to the pot at one time so that they do not stick to each other while frying.
A palatable meal to say the least. Soeren can pretty much dive into the yogurt tahini dip. I have to make double portions as he wants it spread on almost everything - sandwiches, wraps etc. The falafel are his favorite and usually, if we have leftovers, he wants it in a sandwich for his lunchbox. Tom and I love the mixture between the hot falafel, blanketed with the nutty flavors of the the tahini sauce and the cool refreshing tabouleh.
It's Soeren's birthday next week so my weekend is going to be busy with baking and preparations. Hope you all have a great scrumptious weekend!
You might like these Middle Eastern flavors from WFLH:
|Chickpea Pumpkin Tajine With Coconut Couscous & Coconut Chutney||Warm Vegetable Salad||Lavash Crackers and Ajvar Dip|
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