Let's make some wafalafels: vegetarian snack of the year 2020 (you heard it here first).
The falafel is a dish steeped in a rich history: popular in the Middle East, many countries claim ownership of these tasty little guys. Wars have broken out over less. Point being that people were cooking tasty falafels long before the food processor was invented. We're gonna make a chunky falafel mix that doesn't require any kind of blender or mixer. It's quick, it's authentic, it's delicious.
The waffle is a dish steeped in slightly less history, but it remains close to my heart. Whether we're talking about sweet waffles or potato waffles, the unique shape provides a superb blend of textures: waffles are strong and crispy on the outside, with a smooth, fluffy interior. Thanks to its latticed indentations, the waffle offers an impressive surface-area-to-volume ratio, helping to achieve a nice crunchy exterior.
So, what happens when you combine the herby, aromatic goodness of the falafel with the crisp, geometric purity of the waffle? A taste sensation, that's what. A wafalafel won't crumble, it won't roll away and it'll fit snugly into a warm pitta bread. I don't think it's hyperbole to say this recipe is perfection itself; lunch of the Gods. Let's get started.
Step 1: What You Will Need
Although falafels are typically made with chickpeas, they are believed to have originated in Egypt as a broad bean dish. I've experimented with both and found a 50-50 blend of chickpeas and broad beans creates the best combination of taste and consistency. In all cases I'm using the canned variety for speed and convenience, and it works just fine, although feel free to sub in a high-maintenance alternative you prefer.
You'll need these main ingredients to make eight decent-sized wafalafels:
- a can of chickpeas
- a can of broad beans (fava beans)
- six medium-sized spring onions (green onions)
- a green chilli or two
- four cloves of garlic
- large handful (~25g) of fresh parsley
- large handful (~25g) of fresh coriander (cilantro)
- vegetable or sunflower oil
- plain flour
- one egg (optional)
On top of this, you'll want to throw in a generous amount of seasoning. Baharat (a.k.a. Lebanese seven-spice) is great for authenticity, but allspice covers a lot of the same flavors and you've probably already got some. You can mix this up to your preference, but for starters I'd recommend a full tablespoon each of the following:
- ground coriander (cilantro)
Clearly, you'll also need a waffle iron. I use this VonShef model, which has served me well and seems to be constantly on sale. Silicone tongs are also pretty handy, as is a potato masher, but you can get by without them if need be.
Fun fact: the world's largest falafel weighed more than the average human
Step 2: Making the Falafel Mix
You can buy pre-made falafel mix from the supermarket, and it's not bad. A solid 6/10 for sure. If you're feeling super lazy, skip this step – but be warned that nothing beats falafels made completely from scratch with fresh ingredients. Stick around for the full 10/10 technique:
Drain your chickpeas and broad beans and rinse under cold water to get rid of the brine. Leave them a few minutes to dry, or preferably pop them onto a kitchen towel to absorb any excess water. Stick them into a mixing bowl when you're ready.
Mash the peas 'n' beans with a sturdy potato masher until it all clumps together into a smoothish paste. It's fine to leave it a bit chunky, but try to get a nice even consistency. If you can't find a masher, a fork will do the job just fine – it'll take about three times longer though.
Mix the rest of your ingredients into the mash. You should chop the onions, fresh herbs, chillies and garlic pretty fine so they blend in nicely. Lastly, add a tablespoon of plain flour and a roughly beaten egg and stir until you've got a nice sticky consistency that doesn't break apart at the drop of a hat.
That's it! The base mix can be a little bland if you're not careful, so be generous with those herbs and spices! This isn't the kind of recipe you want to bother with weights and scales for; go with whatever feels right. If you want to check the flavours before cooking everything, quickly fry up a teaspoon of the mix to see how it tastes.
Egg definitely helps bind everything together but if you're vegan, sub in your favorite egg alternative. Coconut oil is a good alternative for this kind of job. Oh, and the mix will keep in the fridge for a few days, so you can make a big batch and eat like a king all week!
Sorry, I'm starting to waffle on. Let's move to the next step and get our waffle on.
Step 3: Getting Your Waffle On
Here comes the fun part: the waffling.
Preheat your waffle iron to its maximum temperature. There's a green light on mine that goes out when it's wafflin' time. Grease the hot iron plating with a thin coat of oil – you'll want to spread it evenly with a brush if possible to make sure every nook and cranny gets a chance to crisp up.
Spoon the mixture onto the hot iron. One (very) heaped tablespoon per waffle should do it. Use the back of the spoon to flatten the waffle into shape. Aim for an even thickness, but don't worry about forming a perfect square – rounded corners look cool and are useful if you're planning to stick one of these bad boys into a pitta bread.
Close the lid and set a timer for ten minutes. You can peek after five to see how things are going, but under no circumstances open the lid earlier than this or you risk everything falling apart. Not just the food but your hopes and dreams. You'll know the wafalafels are ready when they're lightly browned and firm to the touch.
Grab those freshly cooked slices of perfection with a pair of tongs. If you want to treat your waffle iron right, don't use metal implements! Silicone for life, baby.
Step 4: Enjoy!
You're done! Look how great these look. Give yourself a pat on the back and get ready to chow down. Wafalafels are pretty versatile: dip them in sweet chili sauce as a snack, pop them into a pitta for a tasty lunch, or put them center stage for dinner.
They go with basically anything, but match up particularly well with the sort of sides you'd enjoy with regular falafel. Tahini sauce, couscous, pitta bread, flatbread, maybe some halloumi. A nice fresh salad (perhaps Fatoush) is a must, and homemade hummus is a great way to use up any spare chickpeas. So many options. It's even great in a burger with chips!
Shout out to Felicity Cloake's amazingly detailed article about falafels – a good read for more about the history and variants of the dish.
Thanks for reading – let me know how your wafalafels turn out in the comments!
Second Prize in the
Snacks Contest 2016