spinach falafel with vegan tzatziki (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

I’m so sad that long, lazy summer days have passed, yet I’m inexplicably happy to be back to normal life.

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I miss days of kitchen experiments and hours of recipe developing, photographing, and testing (I think we can all infer what the latter entails..), but I’m enjoying learning new things, meeting new people, and experiencing new experiences. Granted, I’m not thrilled about the mounds of homework nor the sentence ‘welcome to high school, this is where your grades start counting!’, but hearing colloquialisms being thrown around in the hallways and the world being back to ‘normal’ is definitely something I take for granted far too much.

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This past week was my first week back at school for over 18 months. For the first time, I felt well enough to go to school, to enjoy it, and I cannot express how happy that makes me. I used to take the simple act of being able to go to school for granted; I know that there are so many of the 7 billion people in the world who don’t have the privilege of education, and it hit me this week that I am so lucky to be one of the ones who do. I am so lucky to attend a top international school, to have lived all over the world, to have food on my plate at every meal. I am so lucky.

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Satisfyingly course, this falafel recipe was the result of many a crumbly, gummy, and simply horrible falafel failures.  A crispy, crunchy outside encases a vibrantly spiced filling of earthy chickpeas, fresh baby spinach, and a streak of the Middle East. Eaten hot with a drizzle of tzatziki lying on a bed of hummus, it’s probably one of the best falafels I have ever eaten. Creamy, cooling and garlicky, the tzatziki brings me back to making it alongside a short Qatari man, laughter lines engraved in the nooks and crannies of his face, telling me to ‘squish! squish!’ the cucumber. These are my favourite types of recipes – ones that aren’t just great, but better than the originals.

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Don’t forget to serve with a healthy dose of ‘call the doctor, I falafel!’

I had to.

spinach falafel with vegan tzatziki

by Alessandra Peters

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

    For the Falafel

    • 4 cups baby spinach, washed
    • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 tbsp tahini
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tbsp potato starch
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking

    For the Tzatziki

    • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled for at least 24 hours
    • 3 tbs lemon juice
    • half an English cucumber, diced
    • a handful each of dill and parsley

    Instructions

    For the Falafel

    1. In a food processor, combine spinach, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and salt & pepper until well combined.

    2. Add in the potato starch, then blitz again until well combined.

    3. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of the mixture on to a baking tray and put in the fridge for ten minutes.

    4. Pour the olive oil in to a large frying pan and set the heat to medium. Let it heat up, and when the ten minutes have passed, gently flatten the falafel balls with your hand before sliding them in to the hot oil. Watch out!

    5. Cook, four at a time, until golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or so or until golden.

    6. Serve hot with tzatziki and hummus if desired! Enjoy!

    For the Tzatziki

    1. Take the can out of the fridge, open it using a can opener, and scoop out the solid white cream from the top. Set aside the clear coconut water to use later (I love mine in smoothies!).

    2. In a bowl, combine the coconut cream, lemon juice, and a good pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    3. In a separate bowl, squash the cucumber with your hands. Keep squashing it until it has released liquid, about 20 seconds, and is quite mushy.

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    cannellini bean and spinach meatballs with tomato sauce (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

    It’s July, it’s too hot to do anything other than lay outside in the sun, and I’m making meatballs with tomato sauce. Why? They’re so easy to prepare, they’re such an easy, light dinner, and they’re immensely summery. I mean, they’re not even meatballs; they’re actually a myriad of crushed cannellini beans and fresh baby spinach in a thick, bright red tomato sauce, and they’re amazing. It’s halfway through summer and I’m still using the correct they’re. Shouldn’t this be banned or something?

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    As I served these to a patiently waiting gaggle of assorted family members huddled around our ancient wooden table, worn from so many long, cold winters spent outside, bursts of Dutch and English mingling through the air, and a copious amount of laughter erupting every few seconds, I smiled. Everybody was blissfully unaware of the outside world, enjoying the simplicity of family who had each come from entirely different corners of the world with stories of their travels, perkily coloured drinks in a collection of odd glasses, and fragrant, vivid foods splayed across the table. This is life, I thought; this is wonderful.

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    The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice. Everyone loves Italian food so I decided to do something with cannellini beans, juicy fresh tomatoes, and the gorgeous baby spinach I’d picked up that day. Feel free to take this very simple base recipe and run with it – by the way, little children (and big ones, too) make fantastic bean mashers. Enjoy!

    Cannellini Bean and Spinach Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

    by Alessandra Peters

    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    Ingredients (serves 4)

      For the Meatballs

      • 1 can cannollini beans, drained and rinsed
      • 75g fresh baby spinach, chopped
      • salt, oregano, and pepper, to taste

      For the Tomato Sauce

      • 500g fresh tomatoes, quartered
      • 50ml water
      • salt, oregano, and pepper, to taste

      Instructions

      1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

      2. In a bowl, mash the cannollini beans to a thick paste with your hands. It’s okay if there are some bits! Add in the spinach and seasonings to taste.

      3. Roll the mixture into small balls in your hands and bake for 10 minutes or until their aroma just starts to fill your kitchen! Let them cool for a couple of minutes before you add them to the tomato sauce.

      4. For the tomato sauce, add the tomatoes to a tablespoon or so of garlic infused oil (or normal oil and a chopped garlic glove) on medium heat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add the water, taking care to not burn yourself as it will splatter! Keep simmering for another 5 minutes or so until the tomatoes break down. If needed, ‘squash’ them with a spatula. Stir for another 5 minutes while the sauce thickens, then turn off the heat.

      5.When your meatballs are done, add them to the sauce carefully. Let it infuse for a minute, then scoop out the meatballs and slather with tomato sauce.

      6. Enjoy!

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