Homemade falafels are fabulous as you can add herbs and spices that are so often sadly lacking in the ready made ones. By stuffing them into a pitta with hummus and salad you have a full and satisfying meal, perfect for on-the-go eating.
Note: you will need to begin this recipe the night before you want to eat, as the chickpeas need to soak overnight.
Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of cold water (at least double their volume). Drain the chickpeas well and weigh into a bowl; they should have approximately doubled in weight. Add 750g of the chickpeas to a food processor – these will become the falafels. Add the onion, garlic and herbs and pulse until you have a crumbly mixture.
Place the cumin, coriander and chilli, if using, into a small frying pan and dry fry for a minute over a high heat until you can smell their aroma wafting up from the pan. Tip into a pestle and mortar and grind roughly before adding to the food processor. Add the flour, 4 tablespoons cold water, baking powder and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper, then pulse again until it forms a coarse paste. Tip into a bowl and chill in the fridge for an hour. This lets the flavours develop and allows the chickpeas to soak in the moisture. Wash and dry the food processor.
While the falafel mix is resting, make the hummus. Tip the remaining chickpeas into a large saucepan. Sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda and cover well with fresh cold water. Set the pan over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, cooking for 25–35 minutes, until tender.
Drain the chickpeas and tip into the clean food processor, along with the tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Process until you have a coarse paste. With the motor running, start to add the cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the hummus is as smooth as you want it to be. I like mine as smooth as possible, but process for a little less time if you like it coarser. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and a squeeze more lemon juice if you like, and scrape into a bowl. Set aside to rest while you continue with the falafels.
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Take tablespoonfuls of the falafel mixture and roll into balls about the size of a walnut. You need to press and squeeze the mixture together really firmly so it doesn’t crumble during cooking; using slightly wet hands helps prevent too much stickiness. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, lining them up on a baking tray. Fry in batches in the hot oil for 4–5 minutes, until deeply golden and crisp, draining on kitchen paper as you go.
Combine all the salad ingredients together in a bowl, seasoning to taste with a little salt and pepper. To serve, spread a generous spoonful or two of hummus inside an open pitta bread; top with a few falafels, a little salad and a drizzle of chilli sauce, if using.