I can’t tell you how great it is to be back at home and back in my own kitchen for a fasting day. Today I decided to go on an Eastern Mediterranean kick, with chickpeas (garbanzo beans) as my main ingredient for our evening meal. Falafel are usually deep fried but this recipe bakes them for a lighter-calorie alternative which still tastes good and fills you up effectively.

Falafel, tzatziki and tabbouleh in pita bread

Recipe for baked falafel (serves 4)

Falafel ingredients1 cup/200g dried chickpeas
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup cilantro/coriander
¼ cup parsley
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (or oat flour)
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper
1 egg

Total calories per serving: 225

Method: Soak chickpeas overnight in cold water. The next day, drain them and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour, until soft. Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic. Put the cooked chickpeas, onion, garlic and herbs into a food processor and blitz them until crumbly. At this point, mixture will look something like this:

Processed chickpeas, herbs and onions

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until they start to smell lovely, then grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar and add to the chickpea mix with the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pepper. Add the egg to bind the dry ingredients together. You can do this in advance of baking the falafels: just put the mixture in a bowl, cover with wrap and put in the fridge until you’re ready to make them.

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F. Form the falafel mixture into walnut-sized balls and place them on a baking tray, flattening them slightly. I got 20 in all.

Falafel prior to baking

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown in colour.

While they are baking, you can be making the tabbouleh and tzatziki.

Recipe for quinoa tabbouleh (serves 4)

Ingredients for quinoa tabbouleh3 tbsp quinoa (or the traditional bulgur wheat – I just happened to have quinoa and not bulgur)
⅔ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ cup fresh mint
350g/1 pint cherry tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Total calories per serving: 80

Method: Bring 90ml/¼cup water to the boil and add the quinoa seeds. Simmer for 12 minutes, until the water has all been absorbed. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and mint and halve the cherry tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients together, with salt and pepper to taste. This can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Quinoa tabbouleh

Recipe for tzatziki (serves 4)

175g/¾ cup  0% yoghurt
100g cucumber, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped dill or mint (my dill has died off now, so I used mint)
salt and pepper

Total calories per serving: 25

The method for making tzatziki doesn’t really deserve the heading ‘method’: just combine all the ingredients!

Tzatziki

I served all this inside shop-bought ‘Lebanese-style’ pita breads which were labelled as being 180 calories each. You could just serve the falafel with the other dishes as salads and leave out the bread if you wanted to keep the whole meal under 330 calories. With everything together, this meal totals 510 calories. I refuse to obsess about the extra 10.

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