Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Baked Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Dip

Cooking for family and for special invitees is never the same. While for the former you can always experiment and afford to go wrong, the same cannot be said for the latter and especially when they are your husband's foreign colleagues. This Saturday I have a mammoth task of hosting some multi-national guests ranging from Australians, Deutche, Chinese, and some Indians too. While initially the plan was to avoid any Indian food considering the low tolerance to Indian spices of my guests, but on special request the menu has been altered to accomodate the same. Cooking for 10 people with no help is completely out of my range. So I decided to keep some heavy starters/appetisers for the guests to have with drinks and by the time dinner is served, they will be already half full, saving me the effort of cooking in huge quantity! 
I wanted to do a trial run before the actual dinner and rectify any mistake or improvements that I may need. So here is the first recipe for the starters that I intend to serve, Baked Falafels with Tahini Yogurt Dip. It is a popular Middle Eastern dish served with Pita bread, Grilled Meat, and Salads. Hummus is also one of the popular condiments but I have kept it for some other day. The falafels are traditionally deep fried but I decided to go a little off beat and baked them which not only is good for health but also saves you from the effort of standing and frying all the balls. The baked falafels were however equally crunchy and beautifully browned like their fried counterparts and were quite soft and juicy from the inside too. So no compromise with taste while still high on health.

For the Falafel
1 cup chickpeas soaked overnight and half a day and changing the water once in a while
1 stalk of spring onions, white included
4 fat cloves of garlic
2-3 stalks of coriander leaves
Half a fistful of mint leaves
2-3 stalks of parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Juice of half a big lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Tahini Yogurt Dip
1/2 cup thick hung curd ( I used greek yogurt)
1 tbsp sesame seeds lightly toasted
1 tsp minced mint leaves
1 tsp minced parsley
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp black pepper powder
Juice of half a big lemon
Salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Making the Dip
In a coffee grinder, grind the toasted sesame seeds to a fine powder till oil separates and then add the olive oil to make a smooth paste. The consistency should be thick but pouring. 
In a bowl, beat the hung curd/greek yogurt till smooth and add all the ingredients. Add 1 tsp of the tahini (Sesame paste) while reserving the rest in a airtight bowl in the refrigerator and use within a week. Mix everything well and keep in the refrigerator until used.
Making the Falafels
Wash and drain the soaked chickpeas. In a mixie or food processor, grind the chickpeas till smooth without adding any water. Now add the parsley and mint and pulse till blended. Next add the coriander and spring onions and pulse till well blended again. Add the garlic, spices, salt, and olive oil and continue blending till light and fluffy. Pulsing the ingredients one at a time is the key to a fine lump free paste. 
Now generously grease a mini muffin tray with olive oil while pre-heating the oven at 200 degree celsius. Take plum sized balls from the mixture and gently give it the shape of a ball and place it in the greased mini muffin holes. Continue with the rest of the mixture. You may need to make it in two batches as I had a 12 hole muffin pan and this mixture yields about 22-23 balls. The rest of the mixture you can shape it into balls and arrange on a plate and refrigerate till half hour before baking time. 

Bake in the pre heated oven for 15 minutes on one side and then flipping the sides and bake for another 10 minutes on the other side. Be careful not to over brown the falafels which will result in a dry inside. Monitor the temperature as well as the time as per your oven conditions.
Serve the falafel with the yogurt dip and enjoy Middle Eastern Cuisine from the comforts of your home!

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