middle eastern mania: 3 dishes in 30 mins for a party of six

raw baba ghanoush

raw baba ghanoush

When travelling abroad, falafels have always been a safe choice for me.  It’s a traditional Arab street food which is served in pita bread (like a sandwich or wrap) and sometimes topped with salads, pickled veg, hot sauce and lashings of tahini-based sauces such as hummus. When made with chickpeas, falafels are rich in protein, soluble fibre and complex carbs.  The only bummer is that falafels are usually deep fried.

Chickpeas are low in fat, salt (if possible make your own out of dried chickpeas; if you buy the canned version, rinse them a few times under running water to reduce the sodium content) and contain no cholesterol. Its key nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, Vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B, and folate.  Because of its high fibre content, it’s effective in lowering blood cholesterol.

Baba ghanoush is made of eggplant mashed and mixed with olive oil and various herbs and spices.  The process usually involves oven roasting or wood-firing the eggplant prior to mashing it with the other ingredients.  I’m a huge eggplant fan! Eggplant is rich in a myriad of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  Some of these are:

  • dietary fibre
  • manganese
  • potassium
  • vitamins C, K, B6
  • magnesium
  • copper
  • folate
  • niacin
  • nasunin and chlorogenic acid

Here is a comprehensive nutritional profile on this humble vegetable.

Tabbouleh is an Arab salad.  I’ve usually had tabbouleh comprising of couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and various other seasonings.  It can also be made of bulgur wheat.

So the challenge was:  how to veganise (and uncook) traditionally deep fried or wood-fired dishes like falafels and baba ghanoush?  Although there are far greater ‘unhealthy’ foods, I wanted to reinvent tabbouleh too!  Mission accepted. The guests were die-hard onmivores. The odds were stacked against me.  Cue cold sweat here.

A true litmus test is when non-vegans gobble up the food.  Hurrah!  Big sigh of relief.

I also created the tabbouleh again for a potluck picnic where the response was overwhelmingly positive.  So as promised, here they are below – quick, easy and super fresh.

Raw Baba Ghanoush

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant, diced frozen and thawed
1-2 heaped tbs tahini
lemon juice
olive oil
sea salt
paprika (to sprinkle on top)

The day before, dice and freeze the eggplant.  The eggplant will need to be thawed before you start.

In a food processor with the “S” blade fitted on, add diced eggplant until it forms a chunky paste.  Add the remaining ingredients (except paprika) and process until creamy.

Empty into a bowl and sprinkle paprika on top.  Drizzle with additional olive oil if you want.  Serve as a dip for flatbreads or smother onto pitas, add the falafels and devour!

raw cauliflower tabbouleh

raw cauliflower tabbouleh

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

1 large cauliflower head – florets only
1 cucumber, finely diced
black pepper
3 cups parsley
2 tomatoes, finely diced
1/3 cup onions, finely diced
juice of 4-5 limes
olive oil
1 tbs sea salt

Whizz cauliflower until it resembles couscous in a food processor.  Don’t over-process as you want to maintain that ‘crunch’ factor.

Empty into a big bowl and add other ingredients.  Mix well and let sit for a few minutes to let the flavours develop.

Sprouted Chickpea Falafels

2 mugs sprouted chickpeas
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/3 c dried parsley
1 tbs tahini
1 tbs chia seed mixed with 3 tbs water, whisked and left for 10 mins (this acts as an egg replacer which binds the felafels together)
3 tbs almond meal (you can also use rice flour or potato flour)

the humble falafel

the humble falafel

Process the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, parsley in a food processor until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl, add almond meal and chia mixture and mix well.

Shape mixture into balls or patties.

If you let these sit in the fridge for 30 mins, they will firm up nicely.

There’s 2 options:  you can serve them as is (bring out of fridge about half hour before serving) or put them under a grill on the lowest setting if you want a falafel with a harder outer shell and a still-chewy inside.  However, this means it’s not entirely raw.

Happy eating! 🙂

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Faultless foul (fool): Discover a famed Arabic favourite

I visited a friend who’s husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer just over 2 months ago.

Bizarrely, he looked even better than when we last met.

The diagnosis had prompted him to kick several habits:  smoking, white sugar, 3 x cokes a day, penchant for red meat and all things classified as junk food.

He’s been on a vegetarian diet ever since and he certainly does not look like a man who has undergone three courses of chemo.

Below is a cartoon that hubby forwarded to me last week.  It serves as a timely reminder you won’t be able to take care of anyone else, if you neglect to take care of yourself first.

Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re selfish for wanting to make time for yourself!

So go ahead.. the dishes / laundry / cooking / < fill blank here > can wait an hour or two while you take care of you.

hobbs

calvin and hobbs cartoon

As an ode to him and his battle, I wanted to share a recipe he made for us a while back.

Being of Arabic descent, he made us a traditional dish called fool (also spelt foul in some instances) which is comprised of fava beans.

He recalled this dish as being for the ‘working class’ as it has very simple and few ingredients.  Don’t let that “fool” (insert cringe here) you into thinking this is an ordinary dish.  The flavours are sensational, and it’s usually served with felafels and pita bread.  I’ve also substituted the fava beans for whatever I have on hand – it works equally well with borlotti, butter or kidney beans too.

Arabic Foul

1 tin Fava Beans
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4-6 tbs tahini
Olive oil
Salt
Parsley
Lemon juice (one whole lemon)
Chilli flakes (optional)

foolin' around. ok i'll stop now.

foolin’ around. ok i’ll stop now.

In a bowl, mash half the beans and mix the tahini, garlic, salt, and lemon juice with it.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Add the other half of the beans and mix together.

Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with chopped parsley, chilli flakes and lashings of olive oil.

Hubby likes to add a chopped tomato on top for extra colour.