I would describe falafel as a chickpea fritter, popular in the Middle East and with vegetarians worldwide. The name of the eggplant tomato dish these falafel are sitting on, imam bayildi, is supposedly Turkish for the “imam fainted,” and apparently there are a variety of folktales to explain why the holy man was so moved by this dish.
I have to thank the folks at Innocent Cafe for this recipe. You’ll see from the comments below that it was edited a lot based on what I had available. Even with my omissions, this dish was full of flavor and very satisfying. I know I’ll be making more dishes from their collection. Let me tell you what I’ve gathered about them. Innocent Cafe is a smoothie – juice place (official smoothie of the 2012 Olympics) in London. They also serve a variety of veg pots which, I’m guessing, are salads without the greens.
Their philosophy is sustainable nutrition with a focus on great tasting real food that includes a lot of fruit and veg. They took on a short term project of a pop-up restaurant offering 5 servings of produce for 5 pounds. That’s it; order any two items from the menu, starter and main or main and dessert and you’ll get your recommended servings for fruits and vegetables. * What a great idea!
for the falafel
16 ounces (400g) canned chickpeas (drained and left on paper towel for 30 minutes to dry out)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped (I didn’t have this)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon ground coriander (I didn’t have this)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 tablespoons cornflour (I used AP flour)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying
for the imam bayildi
2 tablespoons (25ml) olive oil, divided
3 medium eggplant, split in half lengthwise
1 large bulb garlic, with its top chopped off ready for roasting
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (I didn’t have these)
6 ripe vine tomatoes, coarsely chopped (substituted about 1.3 cups of canned diced tomatoes for this and the tomato puree)
1 tablespoon tomato purèe
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
(somehow, I thought the two green chilies listed below were for this section and I substituted a finely diced jalapeno, seeds and veins removed)
for the tzatziki
1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, and finely diced)
2 green chillies, finely chopped (I didn’t have these and frankly, I welcomed the cooling effect of the tzatziki on my spicy imam bayildi)
1 1/3 cup (300g) Greek yoghurt
A pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, finely chopped (I used parsley)
- Preheat oven to 400 F/200C
- Brush the garlic and eggplant with oil and sprinkle with salt and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the eggplants are tender
- While the eggplant are baking, drain the chickpeas and place on paper towels to dry. Don’t skip this step as canned chickpeas are too wet for making good falafel.
- Prepare the cucumber for the tzatziki, sprinkle lightly with salt and leave in a strainer
- Make the tzatziki by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl
- After baking, allow the eggplant and garlic to cool
- Scoop the eggplant out of the skin; it will be mushy. Give the mush a rough chop
- Heat the remaining oil for the imam bayildi and sauté the onions until soft, add the eggplant
- Squeeze out the roasted garlic and add to the onions; add cumin seeds, tomatoes, tomato purèe, pepper and salt and simmer for a few minutes
- Add parsley, stir and set aside
- Add the dried out chickpeas to a food processor and pulse until they’re broken up into fine crumbs.
- Empty the chickpea crumbs into a mixing bowl then process the onion, garlic, herbs, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper in the food processor until finely chopped, but not purèed.
- Combine the onion mix with the chickpeas along with the cornflour and knead into a thick paste.
- Roll the mixture into small firm ping-pong sized balls and then flatten them a bit.
- Heat an inch of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add your falafels and fry until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side
- To serve , spread a big spoonful of the imam bayildi onto a plate, top with 3 falafels and drizzle with tzatziki.
* I read somewhere that we really need 9 servings of fruit and vegetable everyday, but that because 9 would seem totally impossible to most people in the modern world, the experts decided to go with the more obtainable 5 servings.