Tag Archives: lunch

Baked Falafel


The traditional way of making falafel involves soaking chickpeas, blending them up with onion, herbs and spices, then deep frying them into crispy balls of perfection. The key point here is that the chickpeas aren’t cooked – if they were, they falafel would fall apart and you’d need flour or breadcrumbs to hold the falafel together. To me, this defeats the purpose, especially if you’re serving the falafel in a pita. I want to fill my pita with beans, not bread (it’s the age-old veggie burger versus bread burger dilemma).

For lack of good falafel in the Cotswolds, I’ve tried making my own falafel the traditional way but it’s always been a disaster, primarily at the deep frying step. I don’t think I can get my oil hot enough on the electric hob (that, or I’m scared). So the falafel just ends up soaking up all the oil and then falling into greasy gross pieces.

I’ve experimented with several baked falafel recipes, all of which involve using cooked chickpeas, or in Leon’s case, chickpea flour. The baked falafel I made with my sister was decent, but not exactly ultimate.

Falafel for breakfast

At last I came across this baked falafel recipe, adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, which follows the traditional method of soaking the chickpeas. To get around the fried bit, olive oil is included in the falafel mixture itself, and in the baking tray.

I’ve made these twice now, and while they don’t have quite the same wow-factor as really good deep-fried falafel, they are still pretty damn good and, as it seems, worth making again and again. They also keep well in the freezer which makes them handy for lunches (I re-heat them in the toaster!).

I like to serve mine with a simple tahini sauce made with lemon juice, tahini and enough water to make a drizzle-able dressing. Chilli jam or harissa is nice, too.

The next thing to master are those great pickles you get with falafel in good falafel joints. The best I’ve ever had were the falafel and pickles from  Arabica in Borough Market, though the last time I had them they weren’t quite as good as I remember. (I’ve since been told I must go to Mr. Falafel in Shepherd’s Bush.)

Arabica falafel

Is it pickled turnips I’m after? And I haven’t even touched on the falafel sauce. Tzatziki? Tahini? Hot sauce? All of the above?

Suggestions welcome.

Recipe: Baked Falafel

Helen and Silvana’s Vegetarian Smorgasbord

Tomatoes & slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

A recent lunch re-affirmed two things I already knew: Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School is one of the best vegetarian chefs of all time ever, and Silvana de Soissons really knows how to pick ’em.

The occasion was The Foodie Bugle Contributor’s Lunch Party, hosted by Silvana, who wisely chose Helen to create, cook and serve the meal. The end result was the smorgasbord of my dreams (veggie or otherwise). Get a load of this menu:

  • Roasted red pepper soup and harissa
  • Wild mushrooms with pinenuts and herbs
  • Imman Bayaldi
  • Roasted butternut squash and haloumi salad with tahini yoghurt and spices
  • Castelluccio lentils with beetroot & caramelised fennel
  • Tomatoes slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

This is my kind of food, and reading the menu filled me with promise. But it was in eating the food itself where I was reminded why Helen rocks my world.

Helen Lawrence

I’ve known Helen for the past few years in my work with The Vegetarian Cookery School and Demuths Restaurant (where Helen used to be head chef). Helen is happy, fun and spontaneous. She works hard but never stresses. She loves ingredients. She loves to play. She loves to cook. All of this results in some amazing food, often with flavour combinations that surprise and inspire, and always beautifully presented as if each dish is an homage to the vegetables themselves. I’ve been a (mostly) vegetarian for the past 20 years and every time I take one of Helen’s classes or am treated to her cooking, I leave saturated with new ideas for how to make vegetables extraordinary.

Tomatoes & slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

Case in point was her lentils with beetroot and caramelised fennel, where the fennel was roasted on a very low heat over the course of two days to make the lentils absolutely soft, tender and sweet. Add to this deeply roasted beetroot and red onion, pomegranate molasses and edible flowers and you have something for which the phrase “lentil salad” simply doesn’t do it justice.

Lentils done well

The other revelation came in her rose harissa – take your usual spicy harissa past and add rosewater and rose petals. The result: a world-rocking addition to roasted red pepper soup, bread, salad and pretty much anything that takes well to a bit of heat. (Following its positive reception, Helen has graciously shared the rose harissa recipe for all to enjoy.)

Roasted red pepper soup with harissa

It wasn’t all fireworks and surprise flavours – Helen knows when to hold back and let great ingredients speak for themselves. Her sauteed wild mushrooms were going to be wrapped in filo and served with pine nuts, but in the end she served the sauteed wild mushrooms as they were – another example of Helen’s spontaneity resulting in beautiful results.

Sauteed wild mushrooms with herbs

I asked Helen what her favourite dish was to make. Her response: “that’s like choosing your favourite child.” This was right before she commandeered the mint tea, opened the pot and threw in some fresh sage leaves: “let’s put some of this sage in there because it’s just so lovely.”

Lunch is served

Like I said, Silvana knows how to pick em’, and that goes beyond chefs – she knows how to pick her friends, too. The lunch party was full of the coolest, friendliest and most talented foodies around. Authors, chefs, cookery teachers, food and drink “artisans”, journalists… mostly small business owners who have the freedom of life to disappear on a weekday afternoon into Silvana’s countryside wonderworld – the crockery, the linens, the Aga, the dogs, the wine, the food, the people – it’s all straight out of the “Make Life Awesome” handbook. It’s a sure sign that things are headed in a pretty swell direction.

I’ll finish this post the same way we finished the meal: with dessert. Semolina cake with roasted quince alongside rosewater and pistachio meringues, blackberries and vanilla labna. There are those roses again, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. I need to get some.


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Gujerati Thali

Gujerati Thali

Yesterday’s lunch / dinner came courtesy of Urvashi Roe‘s Gujerati Thali class at The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Me and fellow students spent the day learning to cook the Gujerati style of Indian food, and in groups of three created our own twists on dhal, potato shak (a dry type of curry) and coriander coconut chutney, all of which we enjoyed over a thali feast at the end of the class.

I loved it all, especially the new experience of trying Guvar and Tindoor, two indian vegetables featured in the shak. And it was great fun trying all the different dahls, some with coconut milk, some without. Ultimate highlight might be the coriander coconut chutney – cuz let’s face it, good chutney can bring any meal together.

I’ll be writing more on this class coming soon (including the recipe for that super coriander chutney). For now, check out Urvashi’s Gujerati Girl blog (or visit her in her other guise as The Botanical Baker).

Carrot and Fennel Soup

Carrot fennel soup with pearl barley & Parmesan. What do you think, @glosriverford?

Few ingredients in this soup – it’s all about the fennel and carrot flavours. And its brothy goodness made it the perfect comfort food for this soldier who’s feeling a little run down by the battle of life. I make it sound so dramatic. Really just have a mild case of the stomach flu.

I made this with barley instead of the wild rice called for in the recipe. Worked a charm.

Recipe: Carrot and Fennel Soup (101 Cookbooks)

Curried Beetroot Soup at The Chequers

Curried beetroot soup, The Chequers, Bath

Had a “business lunch” at The Chequers today, a comfy little gastro pub in Bath that does a very good lunch set meal deal (£12 for two courses, £15 for three). I ended up sharing the two courses with my business friend: she took the main, and I took the curried beetroot soup. In the words of my biz pal: “amazeballs”.

The bonus: the kind gentleman who served us explained to me how I can recreate this orgasmic soup at home. Let’s see if I can remember what he said:

The ingredients:

  • ~6 cooked beetroot (boiled or roasted – roasted is better)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • cumin seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • caraway seeds (the “magic” ingredient)
  • turmeric
  • double cream

The method:

Blitz the cooked beetroot in a food processor to a fine paste. Cook up the onion and garlic with the seeds and turmeric, then add the beetroot puree and cook for a little while. Then pass everything through a muslin cloth. Stir in double cream to taste. Serve, garnished a bit of olive oil or double cream and fresh coriander.