The recipe for this beloved bean fritter dates back to the time of the Pharaohs. They are to the Middle East what fish ’n’ chips are to Britain or burgers are to the USA: a homeland ubiquity that has spread far beyond its native region.

Hummus is the usual dip of choice. However, my preferred accompaniment is moutabal. It is a thing of joy: smoky, pungent with spices and garlic, creamy and delicious.

Falafel take a little planning, so always make plenty and freeze any you don’t need to use straight away. They thaw quickly and, if you’re desperate, can even be fried from frozen in medium hot oil.

Falafel with Moutabal

  • For the falafel (makes about 40)
  • 250 g dried chickpeas and 250 g dried split broad beans, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1½ teaspoons of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 4 tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon of ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • For the moutabal
  • 4 large aubergines
  • 6 tablespoons of plain Greek yoghurt (or alternatively, more lemon juice and olive oil)
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 large pinch of chilli powder
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • A sprinkle of ground sumac or paprika for garnish

To make the falafel

  • Drain the soaked chickpeas and broad beans and pass them through a mincer.
  • Add all of the other ingredients and mix well.
  • Mince again and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Make one falafel (or two if you’re peckish!) by forming a ball the size of a walnut and then flattening it slightly. Fry in hot oil until golden brown.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
  • Form the rest of the falafel (I use a 5cm falafel press) and refrigerate until needed (24 hours maximum), or freeze them raw.
  • Fry them in 1cm of vegetable oil over a moderate heat until deep golden brown all over. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with moutabal.

To make the moutabal

  • Place the whole aubergines on a baking tray and grill under a high heat or, if you have a gas hob, sit them directly over the flame, turning them with tongs until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is soft and fully cooked.
  • Allow them to cool, split in half lengthways, and scrape the flesh from the skin.
  • In a food processor, pulse together all of the ingredients until it has the texture of rice pudding.
  • Sprinkle with a pinch of paprika or sumac and serve with falafel and hot pitta bread.
  • My dear wife, Helen, doesn’t like yoghurt in moutabal and prefers a smoother version. She uses more olive oil instead and puts hers through the blender. Both are good, but I like mine better!
  • A spoonful or two of tabbouleh next to your falafel with moutabal is a perfect contrast of tastes and textures.

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