Pumpkin Falafel

Falafel are rather easy to make, the basic ingredients being chickpeas, onions, garlic, lemon, and parsley. But if you are using a food processor instead of a meat mincer, you will most probably end up with a mixture that does not really bind together. To solve this binding issue, flour is commonly added. But in my opinion, adding flour results in rather dried falafel. The solution? Adding some cooked roots vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, or … pumpkin! This will help the mixture binding together while providing extra moisture, resulting in a lovely falafel that will not break your tooth. It’s nearly Halloween, so let’s make pumpkin falafel!

Pumpkin falafel
Pumpkin falafel served with sauteed kale, fried mushrooms, and beetroot hummus

You can use canned chickpeas, but you will most probably end up with dense and heavy falafel. To make falafel from dry chickpeas, you only need to soak them, no cooking required, so it’s not so much extra work. It only required a minimum of 12 hours of anticipation….

(The pink stuff on the picture above is a beetroot and walnut hummus, really lovely, check out the Made In Hackney recipe here).

Ingredients
(Make about 20 falafels)

  • 250 grams of dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 250 grams of pumpkin (about 1/4 of a medium pumpkin)
  • 2 onions
  • A handful of parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • A pinch of salt

Method

  1. Soak the chickpeas for 12 to 24 hours. Change the soaking water every few hours.
  2. Place the sliced pumpkin on a baking tray, brush with oil, and roast in the oven at 200°C until it begins to soften (about 30 minutes). Let the pumpkin cool slightly and scoop the flesh from the skin. Use a fork to mash the pumpkin flesh.Falafel
  3. Place the chickpeas, garlic and onion into a food processor and whizz until the chickpeas are finely chopped but not smooth.
  4. Add the pumpkin, parsley, lemon, and spices to the food processor and whizz a few more times, until a coarse paste forms.
  5. Give the mix a good stir and shape into balls or small patties. Use wet hands to avoid sticking.
  6. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and brush with oil. Place the falafel on the baking tray, brush with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes at 220°C.

Nutrition facts: Home-made falafel vs. falafel from the supermarket

I came up with this recipe for a healthy cooking workshop in which we cooked, ate, but also spoke about food labels: how to understand them and how to use them to make healthier choices when shopping. As a practical application, I prepared the following information to compare the labels between a falafel from the supermarket and this pumpkin falafel. The comparison is not really accurate as the commercial falafel does not contain pumpkin, but it still gives a good idea of the difference between both from a nutritional point of view. (And as we are here, there is also a significative difference of costs: £0.5/100g for the home made falafel vs. £1/100g in average for the commercial ones.)

 Cauldron Falafels 200gThis Pumpkin Falafel
IngredientsChickpeas (58%), Onion, Seasoning (Wheat Flour1, Salt, Sugar, Cumin, Coriander, Parsley, Black Pepper, Raising Agent: Sodium Bicarbonate), Sunflower Oil, Breadcrumb (Wheat Flour1, Salt, Yeast), Water, Parsley, Coriander, Garlic Puree, 1Wheat Flour contains added Calcium, Iron, Niacin & ThiamineChickpeas, Pumpkin, Onions, Lemon juice, Garlic, Extra virgin olive oil, Parsley, Cumin, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Salt
Nutritional Information

The main conclusion to draw from this information is that this pumpkin falafel contains three times less fat than the commercial one. Yes, 4.3g vs. 14g per 100g. Why so much difference? Because this falafel is oven baked while the commercial one is deep fried. Using the oven instead of deep frying is therefore an effective way to reduce your fat intake.

Now, let’s look at the salt content. Again, more than a factor three of difference between both falafel: our home-made falafel contains 0.39g of salt per 100g vs. 1.5g for the commercial one. We eat too much salt: on average, adults in the UK eat around 8g of salt per day, i.e. 2g more than the daily recommended maximum amount of salt (6g/day). Most of the salt we eat comes from processed food and this table can only confirms this fact.

The fibre and protein contents are similar in both falafels, which validate the previous results: the home-made falafel is healthier than the commercial one as it contains three times less salt and fat while providing similar amounts of fibre and proteins.

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