Operation Lunchbox: Mini baked falafels with cucumber and mint raita

Now, I enjoy a cheese and pickle sandwich as much as the next person, but when you end up eating them ALL THE BLOODY TIME for lunch, they get a bit boring. This is why, every now and again, I decide that Owen and I are stuck in a ‘lunch rut’ and vow to make more interesting things to take to work for lunch. We also happen to be on a bit of a health kick at the moment (contrary to what some of my posts may lead you to believe), so I’ve been thinking of wholesome, healthy things to eat at lunch time to get us through the working day. We do often use up dinner leftovers for lunches, which is nice, but is dependent on what we’ve had the night before and whether there’s any left (which there usually isn’t). I’m not planning on creating any of those bento box masterpieces you see lots of on the internet, I just want something decent to eat in the middle of the day that’s easy to make.

So, I was really pleased with myself when I had an idea for mini baked falafels. I then Googled ‘mini baked falafel’ and realised that lots of people had unsurprisingly already thought of this before me. I still thought they would make a good packed lunch though, and my own recipe for them is below. I did wonder whether these would need an egg or something to bind them together, but they came out okay and didn’t fall apart. They weren’t too ‘mealy’ either, despite being baked rather than fried.

For the falafels:

Ingredients

  • A 400g tin of chickpeas
  • A small red onion (or half a large one), peeled and roughly chopped into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • A red chilli, halved and de-seeded
  • A tablespoonful of cumin seeds
  • A heaped teaspoonful of ground coriander
  • A third of a bunch of fresh mint, any large stalks or dodgy leaves removed
  • Olive oil

Put the onion, garlic and chilli in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Scrape this mixture out into a pan and add a bit of oil and the cumin seeds. Fry until the onion is translucent and the other ingredients are nice and fragrant. Set aside to cool a bit.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and drain thoroughly again. Add them along with the fresh mint into the food processor and whizz until everything is an even crumbly consistency. Scrape the chickpea mixture out into a bowl and add the onion mixture from earlier. Add the ground coriander and season with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to bind the mixture together well and use clean hands to squelch everything together until it’s thoroughly mixed.

Use a pastry brush to lightly oil a baking sheet. Roll the mixture into balls measuring about an inch across and place them on the baking sheet. This mixture should make about twenty mini falafels.

Bake them in the oven at gas mark 5 for about 45 minutes, or until they are nicely crispy on the outside without being burned.

Before they went in the oven.

Cucumber and mint raita

Ingredients

  • About two inches of cucumber, halved with the watery seeds scraped out and discarded
  • A third of a bunch of fresh mint, any large stalks or dodgy leaves removed
  • A clove of garlic, peeled
  • Greek yoghurt

Put the cucumber, mint and garlic in a container- I use a blender stick/ wand thing to make this and it comes with its own plastic beaker, but any container with a flat bottom would be fine. Add a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt and whizz until blended. Keep adding yoghurt until you reach your desired consistency. You can obviously adjust the amounts of ingredients depending on how strong you want the flavour and how much you want to make. That one raw garlic clove goes a long way though- unless you want to be breathing garlic all over your co-workers then you might not want to add much more than that.

If you don’t have a blender wand, you could use a food processor or just grate the cucumber and finely chop the mint and garlic.

This keeps in the fridge for a couple of days.

We had the falafel and dip in our lunchboxes with some bulgar wheat salad. As all the mint on my balcony garden has died, I had to buy fresh mint especially for this, but I didn’t mind too much as it got used in the falafel, raita and bulgar wheat salad so there was no waste. I think coriander would make a good substitute for the mint, so I might give that a go too.

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