Falafels need a makeover. Somehow, this once healthy alternative to the burger and pizza slice has now become the greasy staple of drunken teenagers everywhere. And although it’s probably a better choice than typical fast food (especially for vegetarians) it’s just junky health food not healthy junk food.
This amazing recipe transforms your run-of-the-mill wrap into a tasty treat with an unexpected twist. Sweet potatoes take center stage as the base, in place of the standard chickpeas and fava beans (which, mind you, are excellent healthy food choices until you deep fry them in questionable, oxidized oil). These falafel balls are also baked, keeping the fat content low for those watching their waistlines. Even thought they are super healthy, my taste-testers swore they were just as good (or bad?) as junk food!
The other wonderful thing about this recipe is the chickpea flour content. If you scroll back a few articles, you’ll find the instructions needed to grind your very own flour from any grain or legume, including chickpeas. This is especially helpful since chickpea flour can be both difficult to find and very pricey.
How Sweet it is…
As an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C, sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and colon cancer. This may explain why beta-carotene and vitamin C have both been shown to be helpful for preventing these conditions.
Since these nutrients are also anti-inflammatory, they can be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions where inflammation plays a role, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sweet Sweet Potato Falafels
(recipe from 101cookbooks.com)
2 medium sweet potatoes (orange inside), around 700g or 1 1/2 pounds in total
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 big handfuls of fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
a scant cup chickpea flour
a sprinkling of sesame seeds
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees (220C) and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender – 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size). Turn off the oven, leave the potatoes to cool, then peel.
2. Make the chickpea flour by putting about 1 ½ cups of dried chickpeas into your blender and grind on high for a few minutes until the flour stops falling into the middle of the container (you will understand this once you do it). Pour blender contents out into a fine-mesh sieve and sift until the fine gram and coarse legume bits are separated. You should have just less than 1 cup of fine chickpea flour – if not, make more.
3. Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, ground and fresh coriander, lemon juice and chickpea flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash until smooth with no large chunks. Stick in the fridge to firm up for an hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you take it out, your mix should be sticky rather than really wet. You can add a tablespoon or so more of chickpea flour if necessary (the water content of sweet potatoes varies enormously).
4. Reheat the oven to 400F/200C. Using a couple of soup spoons (put a well-heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides) or a falafel scoop if you have one, make the mixture into falafel-y looking things and put them on a tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the bases are golden brown.
Tip: next time I make these (which will certainly be very soon) I plan on rolling the falafel balls in the sesame seeds to coat them entirely. This will add extra crunch and flavour.
Wrap it up:
To serve your falafel balls the traditional, meal-on-the-go kind of way, you can wrap them up in a whole grain tortilla or pita. Load it with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, sprouts and drizzle on some yummy tahini sauce (recipe below). Alternatively, you can plate them on top of salad greens, with brown rice or cous cous on the side. Again, drizzle the whole plate with the tahini dressing – it’s delicious!
Yummy Tahini Sauce
1 cup Tahini (sesame seed paste)
½ cup lemon juice
3 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp. ground cumin
1 to 1 ½ tsp. salt (to taste)
¾ to 1 ¼ cup water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce)
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Using a whisk beat briskly into a smooth sauce. This takes about 1 to 2 full minutes of beating (you can also use a hand-blender).
This sauce can be served at room temperature or chilled. Refrigerate leftovers. Keeps well for 5 to 7 days. Makes 1 1/2 cups (360 ml).
The recipe for the falafels makes a lot, so refrigerate them overnight and pack them in a picnic lunch for the next day! They will firm up as they cool down too, making them even more like the traditional falafel balls you get at restaurants. Healthy junk food, here we come!