Lebanese bread, piled high with falafel balls from the local kebab shop and chunks of labneh from the local deli got me through a very tough time. Five years ago I was living in West End (Brisbane) and was coming out of the breakup of a massive relationship- the breakup wasn’t massive, it was all very civilised, but the relationship had run for my entire adult life. For the first time in forever I had to work out how to cook for one, so I just didn’t. I was a Pharmacist by day, an actor by night and a production manager in my spare time. It could have been worse, I survived a year on falafel and muesli with the occasional cheap curry from the Indian Kitchen (is it still there?).
When I moved to Melbourne, no longer did I walk past a falafel joint on my way home and there was no labneh to be found. So I forgot about these fantastic foods that sorted out many a late-night, post-rehearsal hunger.
Then Bec of Dancing Through Sunday posted the directions for making labneh. Suddenly I was transported back to those nights of shovelling rich creamy balls of yoghurty (and relatively low fat) cheese into my face, curled up on the balcony of my artsy little sharehouse. Labneh is back in my life in a big way, and what’s even better is that I can knock it up anytime I like (and not pay $9 for a small tub).
This sounds so grown-up: In the interests of health, I tend not to buy deep fried falafel anymore. I have been faffing about with baked falafel recipes for some time and think I have come up with a version that is just about perfect.The secret is to add some tahini to the falafel mix, it helps to stick it all together so that it doesn’t fall apart in the dry heat of the oven.
This is my fresh, healthy and gluten-free take on the kebabs of my West End days – a deconstructed kebab salad if you will. Crunchy iceberg lettuce (so trendy right now), glossy tomatoes and fresh herbs are drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. Flavour packed falafel perch on top of the salad, balanced by thick and creamy balls of labneh. A fabulous, quick dinner that feels like a treat.
Labneh needs to be prepared in advance (using DTS’s instructions) or you can buy some. Seriously though, making it is so easy and so much cheaper. Once you have tried it you will wonder why you haven’t always had a jar of marinated labneh ready to go in your fridge. Make sure you buy a good greek yoghurt. Note the difference between ‘greek-style’ and greek, the latter is a strained yoghurt (Jalna make one). I have been letting my labneh drain for about 44 hours- get it started on a Thursday night and it is ready to roll (literally) on Saturday afternoon. I’ve also found that letting the balls ‘set’ on a plate in the fridge for an hour or two before coating in oil helps keep them together. Adding some orange zest and fresh rosemary to the jar is delicious too 🙂
This falafel recipe uses canned chickpeas so it can be whipped up when the urge takes you, without needing to remember to soak chickpeas first. Just be extra careful not to overblend your mixture or it will become hummous.
Something really crisp and fresh like a dry riesling (the Canberra district is my favourite area for riesling at the moment) or a Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.
Is there anything you love that you’ve learnt to make at home?
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder or 1/2 Tbsp fresh chopped coriander
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp tahini
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds to coat
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- labneh- allow 2-3 balls per serving depending on size
- 1 iceberg lettuce
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- 2-3 shallots
- handful of parsley
- handful mint
- Olive oil
- Drain and rinse chickpeas
- Roughly chop onion and garlic and fresh herbs
- Place chickpeas, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, parsley and baking powder in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped and sticking together.
- Drizzle tahini over the top and mix together with a spoon
- Shape mixture into 8 balls (or ovals tend to cook through and hold together better)
- Coat balls in sesame seeds
- Place in the fridge for half an hour to 'set' if possible (optional)
- Preheat oven to 220C/430F
- Lightly heat olive oil in a small pan to thin it and assist drizzling
- Place falafel balls on a lined baking tray and drizzle with olive oil
- Bake for 20 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned.
- Chop iceberg lettuce into large wedges
- Halve cherry tomatoes
- Finely chop shallots
- Roughly chop herbs
- Use a fine grater to make about 1 Tbsp lemon zest, then chop lemon in half to use for juice
- Place lettuce on serving plates and lightly squeeze lemon juice over the top, drizzle with olive oil.
- Top with tomatoes, shallots, fresh herbs, falafel balls and labneh
- Sprinkle lemon zest over the top and drizzle with more oil and lemon if desired.