You may remember that I resolved to eat more veg this year. I also feel like I should stop wasting good money on lunches that I could quite easily make myself. I work three days a week as a features editor for a magazine and in the hustle and bustle of getting everyone out of the door and safely to nursery, with everything they need, I never seem to manage to organise lunch for myself. I'm guessing I'm not alone.
I have become slightly addicted to a falafel, butternut squash and cous cous salad from the local Tesco - which is fine except that it costs £3 a day and it has butternut squash in it which I really, really, really dislike. So instead of spending £3 and picking out the squash I decided to get my ass in gear this week and make my own version.
A good falafel recipe is hard to find. I've tried many and they've either ended up dry or sloppy. This one however, adapted from the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook is perfect. The falafel are soft, fluffy and dense all at the same time. They're moist but hold together well - and you bake them in the oven so they're low fat. They're also ideal for babies and toddlers because they're easy to pick up and soft to eat. Although my children are both in that incredibly irritating picky phase so these are currently off the menu - for children at least. Not for me though.
If you'd like to try them you will need:
5 dried apricots 1 small onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, chopped 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 50g breadcrumbs Small bunch of coriander Small bunch of flat leaf parsley A splash of orange juice 1 tsp cumin Salt and pepper
Makes 16 falafel
Pre-heat your oven to 190c.
If your apricots are of the properly-dried variety rather than the ready-to-eat version then you'll need to soak them in boiling water for 10 minutes or so to rehydrate them.
Meanwhile fry the onion and garlic gently until soft. Drain the apricots and add them to a food processor with the onion and garlic, chickpeas, breadcrumbs, herbs, orange juice and cumin. Whizz to a thick paste. It should be fairly smooth and well mixed.
If when you pinch some of the mixture together with your finger tips it doesn't stick together add a splash more orange juice and blitz again. Taste the paste and add seasoning if you like.
Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into small balls and pop on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden brown - about 20 minutes. Turning half way through to help them cook evenly. Serve at room temperature - or cold in your lunch box.
I serve mine with cous cous - which I made following the package instructions. And some roasted veg. Simply roughly chop pepper, onions, courgettes and cherry tomatoes in this instance and toss in some olive oil and salt and pepper. You could add aubergine, mushrooms or butternut squash - whatever takes your fancy. Bake at 180c for 30 mins or so, tossing regularly, until tender and slightly charred on the edges.
For the dressing I mixed a pinch of dried mint with a squeeze of lemon juice. Then added four tablespoons of fat free Yeo Valley Natural Yogurt and gave it a stir. For a sweeter dressing it's also lovely with some yogurt mixed with mango chutney.
If you can't be bothered with the cous cous and roasted veg just toast a pitta bread, stuff in some salad leaves, a dollop of houmous and your falafel and your good to go.
The falafel can be frozen either before or after baking. Freeze on trays and then pop into freezer bags. Enjoy.