Red lentil and chard falafel

red lentil and chard falafel
In times of austerity . . . oh god, I sound like a Billy Bragg lyric . . .  While my love for the Balladeer of Barking may be pure, in these hard times it is sometimes really difficult to stay cheerful when you have no choice but to be constantly frugal and thrifty. Frankly it is all a bit of a grind (she says gloomily).

What does cheer me up no end is when I manage to create something in the kitchen that is the sort of food that would have people beating a path to your door, if only they knew where you lived. This is the case of this take on falafels. They hit all the right notes (most definitely in the right order); on-trend (street food is at its height of popularity right now). The falafels were made using leftover red lentil purée (so that's the frugal button pressed) and most importantly they tasted absolutely gorgeous - a lovely combination of nuttiness and gentle spices.

One of my tasters suggested I start a falafel pop-up, but frankly I am not an all-weather type of girl. Much as I would really like to cook for a much larger group of people, I am not particularly intrepid. I would rather sit indoors and moan about the weather than stand outside and experience it. Besides, I have a food blog so I can live vicariously without the need for thermals and wellies.

My falafels include Lebanese 7-Spice mix, a fabulous recipe for which can be found at Anissa Helou's website; (she is a fabulous writer and teacher who specialises in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, particularly Lebanese cuisine). It is a glorious mixture of fragrant sweet spices including allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger and nutmeg, as well as black and white pepper.
If you don't want to make the spice mix then I would substitute it for just a couple of teaspoons of ground cumin with a pinch of allspice.

You may also need to use a roux to thicken the mix if your lentil purée s too runny. I do this by heating up a tablespoon of vegetable oil and stirring in one tablespoon of chickpea flour. When the flour has cooked through, I then return the lentil purée o the pan and allow it to cook and thicken. I think the gram flour gives an extra nuttiness too.

My falafels may not be strictly authentic, since falafels are generally made with chickpeas or broad beans, but if you are craving home-made street food, tasty nibbles for a party or just a thrifty way to use up leftovers, I would definitely give these lentil falafels a try.

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy


1 tbsp olive oil
1 x red onion, finely chopped
1 x garlic clove, very finely chopped
2 tsp Lebanese 7-spice mix
200g red chard or spinach, roughly chopped
6 tbsp red lentil purée
chickpea roux (see above) - optional
chickpea flour
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
vegetable oil, for deep frying


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and spices, and continue to fry, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes.
  2. If the chard or spinach has tough stems, then you will need to blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. (I actually used baby chard leaves from my garden, so they were tender enough to use raw.)
  3. If your lentil purée s too runny then heat it with the chickpea flour roux (see above). Then add lemon juice - you should have a thick paste. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before adding the onion and chard. Combine well, before forming the mixture into falafel balls. (I find that if I keep my fingers slightly wet, it is easier to form the balls.) Roll the balls in a light coating of chickpea flour. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour for the falafel balls to firm up.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. You will need enough oil to cover the falafel balls. Fry the falafels for about 4 minutes (depending on how big they are). When cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and rest on kitchen paper to drain. You may need to fry the falafels in several batches.
  5. Serve with a dipping sauce such as cacik or hummous.

  • For extra nuttiness and a chunky texture, i added a handful of roasted, cooked chickpeas, that had been roughly chopped.

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