Sunday 5 April 2015

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad. Vegan recipe.

Well, hello Spring! I've missed you asparagus!! This has easily become my new favourite salad: chargrilled tender asparagus, soft sweet chargrilled red onions, avocado, mixed baby leaf with a simple drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar then topped with these fantastic spring fresh lemon dill petite pois falafel. Phew! This is definitely a main dish, knife and fork kind of salad....It's also what we are having for Easter dinner this very evening with a nice chilled glass of white wine :-) 

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel, Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad Wrap. Vegan recipe.

This salad also works beautifully as a filling and satisfying wrap...

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel, Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad Wrap. Vegan recipe.

Same ingredients as the salad but instead of the balsamic dressing I've added a crazy simple "cheats" garlic cream sauce. Hint: it's just vegan sour cream, garlic powder and a pinch of salt! Apologies - I did get photos of the wrap with the sauce but they all looked positively obscene, lol! Anyway, it's just a white cream sauce, nothing you need a photo of ;-) For the wrap I also fried up smaller falafel than I do for the salad then simply wrap it up in a warmed flour tortilla. It's gorgeous!
Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad. Vegan recipe.

The falafel themselves are wonderful, recipe is adapted from Cassie Best's recipe for Pea Falafel on BBC Good Food. Mine took a few attempts to get right, I was mostly having problems with texture. They were initially much too soft inside, almost like deep fried balls of houmous (actually, that doesn't sound too bad!) Not what I was after though of course. In the end I reduced the liquid by omitting the lemon juice, upped the dry ingredients by adding my vegan parmesan - which also adds wonderful flavour and making sure I only briefly pulsed the mixture. Over mix and you'll end up with houmous. 

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad. Vegan recipe.

The other aspect that made a big difference was the brand of chick peas I used. Apologies as this will only apply to those of you in Ireland or the UK but I used Tesco's own label tinned chickpeas here which are smaller and much more firm than most tinned chickpeas making them perfect in falafel. After all, traditional falafel is made by using dried chickpeas that have just been soaked then they are cooked from deep frying. I've always found that much too risky to attempt at home so these firm little cooked chickpeas are a god send! You can still use the larger, softer type chickpeas more common in tins, but do be careful not to overprocess....

~ Recipe Notes ~

• As you can tell from the length of this post, the recipe is rather involved. I recommend making the falafel batter the day before so it is ready to fry.
• I've used smoked sea salt throughout the recipe here as I feel it really adds to the chargrilled flavour of the asparagus and red onion but obviously you can use regular sea salt if that's all you have.
• I've had the salad both with the onions and asparagus warm and with them room temperature. Both are good but I definitely give the edge to having them warm. It's easier in that case to make them first and just give them a quick re-heat in a frying pan before assembling the salad.
• I didn't do it here in these photos but my Tamari Roasted Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds are an awesome addition to this salad! 
• .....and yes, if you don't fancy making the falafel, this salad is just as good without it :-) 

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad. Vegan recipe.

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel:

200g frozen petite pois or peas
400g tin chickpeas (about 265g drained weight)
¼ cup flour
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp tahini 
Bunch of fresh dill, chopped or 1 tsp dried
Zest of 2 small lemons 
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt
1 x recipe vegan parmesan: 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, 2 Tbsp ground almonds, ¼ tsp salt
vegetable oil to fry

Simmer the peas for about 3-4 minutes or until they just start to float to the top. Drain, rinse under cold water until cool then tip into a clean dishtowel and pat dry.

In a large mortar and pestle add the nutritional yeast and grind it until it is a fine powder. Add the ground almonds, salt, pepper, dried dill if using and flour and mix well. 

Dice the onion fairly fine and microplane the garlic and lemons. 

Drain and rinse the chickpeas then tip into a clean dishtowel and pat dry. Tip into a food processor with the peas, seasoning mixture, tahini, onion, lemon zest, fresh dill if using and garlic. 

Process the mixture by pulsing until it is well mixed and starting to come together. Do not overprocess, it should still be a little chunky in texture but will hold together if you squeeze a bit together. 

Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Heat a pot of vegetable oil to 350F / 180C. 

You can make the falafel balls a couple of ways here. I used an ice cream scoop with a lever that 'ejects' the falafel into the oil but you can just use a couple of tablespoons - one to scoop up some of the batter and the other to scrape it off into the oil, or you can just shape the mixture into balls with your hands. When the oil comes to temperature fry the falafel until deeply golden brown then drain in a bowl lined with paper towels.

Now....can these be baked? Well, it depends on what you mean by 'can' ;-) You certainly can shape them into little patties, brush with a little olive oil and bake them in a 200C / 400F oven about 15 minutes a side and they get a little golden and hold together but really they are not ideal. 

Falafel should be really crispy on the outside and light and fluffy inside and as you can see you end up with neither of these things via baking. One option is to bake them as mentioned then give them a quick fry in a tiny bit of oil just to crisp up but I still found that baking dried out the texture. Possibly broiling would work but I'm not sure - I'll be sticking with frying these for the best result :-)

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad. Vegan recipe.

Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad:

Serves 2

1 bunch of asparagus (about 14 spears)
1 large red onion
2 tsp olive oil
Smoked sea salt

100g mixed baby leaf (about 5 cups)
1 avocado, diced
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic dressing
¼ tsp smoked sea salt

4 fried lemon-dill falafel

Chargrilled Asparagus:

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus then boil in salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, plunge into ice water to quickly cool then pat dry.

Heat a grill pan until very hot, brush the asparagus with 1 tsp olive oil on all sides and lay out on the pan with a sprinkling of smoked sea salt.

Grill until you have grill marks and flip over and repeat.

When done, remove from the pan, place on a plate and either set aside while you make the onions or keep warm in a low temp oven.

Chargrilled Red Onions:

Take 1 large red onion, cut in half then each half in quarters. Separate all the sections, place in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil.

 Add the onions to the pan with a sprinkle of smoked sea salt one side up and making sure they are all touching the pan.

Grill until lightly charred then flip over and grill the other side.

When they are getting nicely charred, reduce the temperature to stop them burning then add a tablespoon of hot water and place a lid on to steam and break down the onions a little more as they will probably be nicely charred but not soft at this stage. 

Repeat if necessary, mine took 3 tablespoons of hot water. After I add the water I put the lid on for a bit then remove and stir them around. You'll know they are done when they are soft and tender and nicely charred. Transfer to a bowl to cool, or use them warm.

The Salad:

Make the dressing by adding the olive oil in a small bowl, add the balsamic vinegar and whisk well. Add the smoked sea salt and whisk again.

Place 100g of mixed baby leaf into a large bowl. Add 1 chopped avocado, the onions and the dressing. Using your hands toss until everything is nicely coated. Divide this onto 2 large plates. Take the asparagus and lay out on top. Add 2 balls of falafel on top and serve.

Lemon-Dill Petite Pois Falafel with a Chargrilled Asparagus and Red Onion Salad. Vegan recipe.

Wrap Version:

Simply warm up a large flour tortilla, lay down some mixed baby leaf, some of the chargrilled red onions, 5 spears of chargrilled asparagus, slices of avocado, about 4 small falafel and a drizzle of garlic cream sauce: 30g (2 Tbsp) vegan sour cream, 1/8 tsp garlic powder and a pinch of salt to taste. Alternatively, houmous would be nice as would a Lemon Tahini Sauce

You Might Also Like:

Lemon Barley Salad
w/Asparagus &
Peppered Almond Feta
Roasted New Potato Salad
w/Asparagus, shallots &
Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

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