I have to admit, it’s rare that I use something pre-made or from a packet mix in my kitchen, but I recently re-discovered the wonders of falafel mix. It frequented my cupboards as an undergrad student almost a decade ago but I’d largely forgotten about it ever since. Having picked up a pack in a Middle Eastern supermarket a couple of weeks ago, I remembered that as well as being both tasty and easy, it’s also a very cheap option. For a dish like this where I splashed out on mange tout and baby corn for the chilli, not having to spend loads on top getting falafel ingredients is a welcome relief.
Whilst the falafel mix is easy in terms of effort, don’t forget it does need to sit for around 45 minutes to an hour before it’s ready to be cooked. I didn’t really factor that in properly so had quite a bit of hungry waiting time. Baking it as a loaf does add extra time as well but it’s also hands-off time and frees up time to make the accompanying chilli.
Baking falafel into a loaf provides a healthier alternative to frying. The outer sides of the loaf get wonderfully browned and crisp whilst the middle remains moist. You can also add in other vegetables to bulk it out and up the nutrition factor; I added in grated courgette and it worked a treat but you could definitely try out adding in others such as chopped mushrooms or even fresh spinach. A rich spicy chilli is a dream to go with it and the lime lettuce adds a nice extra dimension with a tanginess that complements both the loaf and the chilli.
For the loaf:
1 pack falafel mix, prepared according to instructions
1/2 courgette, grated
For the chilli:
2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
Handful baby corn, top & tailed
Handful mange tout, top & tailed
Handful mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1/2 courgette, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2tsp smoked paprika
3tsp ground cumin
2tsp chilli flakes
Plenty of black pepper
For the lettuce:
1 cos lettuce, sliced
Juice of one lime
Sprinkling of mixed seeds
Once the falafel mixture is ready, mix the courgette in thoroughly and pour into a well-greased loaf tin. Bake at 180c for 30 minutes. For the first twenty minutes, cover with foil to prevent it browning too quickly – remove this 2/3 of the way through to allow it to turn golden brown.
Whilst the loaf is baking, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add the baby corn, mange tout, and mushrooms and cook for two minutes. Add the garlic and cumin, stirring well. Pour in the tomatoes, add both types of paprika and the chilli. Simmer for around ten minutes. Add the chickpeas, courgette and black pepper, simmer for a further five minutes.
Coat the lettuce leaves in the lime juice and sprinkle over the seeds to serve. Check the loaf is cooked by inserting a cocktail stick or skewer – when it comes out clean the loaf is cooked through. Once ready, turn out onto a wire cooling rack and cut into thick slices. Serve with the salad and chilli.