Ta’meyia is the Egyptian word for Falafel, and this apostrophe I used after the first ‘ a ‘ in the word Ta’meyia is a spot for an arabic letter which is impossible to find an alternative for in English. I just couldn’t skip it because it is such an important letter. But don’t worry too much about it my dear ‘english speaking’ readers, this is how you would pronounce it: TAAMEYIA, yes you got it right!
You will probably think that this is a very long post for a falafel recipe, and it sure is. But I just want to let you know that it is not just about a Falafel recipe. This post took me such a long time to prepare, because I wanted to make sure that it is a complete guide on how to make a perfect ta’meyia sandwich. One that can simply take you to where this recipe was originally created. This is what happens to me with the first mouthful of my falafel sandwich, my soul goes back home and I get a little emotional too, because everything about it reminds me of my childhood and my family. It reminds me of Friday mornings (the weekend there), when we used to send someone to get us freshly fried ta’meyia from GAD (a popular street food shop around the corner) and freshly baked whole meal (baladi) bread from the bakery, and then we would have the best breakfast ever at home.
I believe every step in making ta’meyia is important, I’ve tried my best to include every detail, but if you are a ta’meyia expert reading this now, and you think I have missed something, please comment below and let me know what you think.
So here you go, a step- by- step guide on how to make ta’meyia, starting with the beans and ending with assembling the sandwich. Yes, even assembling is important. Trust me. haha!
1. The split fava beans
If you haven’t made ta’meyia from scratch before, you would probably think that it has to be made out of chickpeas, and that’s what I would have probably thought if I had grown up in Australia. Well, I am here today to confuse you a little and say: No, not necessarily chickpeas. In fact, Egyptians never use chickpeas in making their Ta’meyia, they only use dried split Fava beans, which are available now in most middle eastern stores in Sydney, and they use lots of fresh green herbs which gives it this vibrant green colour from the inside.
One thing you need to know about your beans when making this recipe, is that it is a must to start with dried beans and to never use cooked beans in making ta’meyia. Yes it requires more time for soaking, but it just doesn’t work any other way. Some people might think that using raw beans isn’t really a good idea. Let me tell you something, soaking the beans overnight, which is a crucial step here, is capable of cooking the beans umm.. I’d say almost half way, (after soaking them for that long your beans will become soft and increase in size, which is what you need). The other half comes from the heat of frying, and so the end result should be a perfectly cooked beans patty. Crunchy and brown from the outside, soft and green from the inside.
To prepare your beans, you need to soak them in plenty of water, cover and leave overnight. I like to soak them for at least 12 hours. When you’re ready to make your ta’meyia, rinse the beans, and then drain them well. Place them on a fabric kitchen towel until you get the rest of your ingredients ready.
2. Flavouring (fresh herbs and spices)
See, the key for making good ta’meyia, and that’s just in my own humble opinion as someone who grew up eating original Ta’meya her whole life, is to keep it really simple. I have come across so many recipes online and in cookbooks, where they insist to over do it by adding flour, breadcrumbs, eggs, etc. I have been tempted to try a few different recipes to be honest, just to see if these additions would make the ta’meyias taste or look better. But after a few trials, I have decided to stick with the original and simplest recipe and I’m finally share it with you. Trust me you don’t need anything but fresh herbs, onions, garlic and spices to add to your beans and you’l make the best falafel in town, hands down!
For this amount of beans in the recipe (400g), you will need 1 medium size brown onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of each of the green herbs listed, a few mint leaves, 1 red chilli (optional), and then season with tameyia’s best friends : cumin, coriander and salt.
I like to use coriander seeds rather than ground coriander. It’s the very authentic way. Biting on bits of these seeds while eating my ta’meyia, reminds me of Cairo street carts where you could smell these seeds frying from a distance, and then you wouldn’t be able to resist grabbing a sandwich or maybe two on the way. In some places in Egypt they don’t even bother to blend the seeds while making the dough, they add them whole to the dough just before frying. I sometimes do that too.
3. Making the dough
This is another crucial step in the ta’meyia recipe. It is so easy to over-blend the dough and end up with a soft puree which will struggle to hold itself while frying, and if it did hold itself, it will definitely burn from the outside really quickly and look almost black in colour. But then if you don’t blend it enough, it will be too dense from the inside and might not fully cook. So this bit is a little tricky and so I need your full attention!
I struggled initially to find a way to describe the perfect consistency for this dough. I know it by touching it, but I just didn’t know how to describe it. While I was shooting the recipe for the second time, (those of you who follow me on Instagram, know exactly why I had to shoot the same recipe again on the following day. Shhh!LOL), I came up with this idea of counting the seconds while I was blending, just to give you a rough idea on how much blending time required to reach the desired consistency. This time (seconds) could vary slightly of course, because of using different blenders and different beans. But I’m hoping it will at least help you to produce a good dough on your first go.
I usually blend all the green herbs first for 6-7 seconds, to make sure they are finely chopped in the final dough. I then add the onions, garlic cloves, coriander seeds and chilli (if using) and blend for another 8 seconds. Then I add the beans, ground cumin and salt and blend all ingredients together for 10 seconds, stop, scrape down the sides of the blender’s bowl, then I blend again for 20-30 seconds (a little more if needed), making sure the dough is still grainy in texture. The final addition before sprinkling sesame seeds, is the bicarb soda, which helps the patty to be a little airy from the inside and not too dense. Check the recipe below for more details.
4. Shaping into patties
I usually leave my dough for 10 mins to give it a chance to set and to let the flavours blend well before frying.
This is not a dough that can hold itself well before frying, you would probably think, WTH? But it’s ok. The easiest way to shape it is to use one of these utensils made especially for falafel, you could find it in middle eastern stores. Alternatively,( which is what I do), you can use 2 spoons, one to scoop out a heaped tablespoon of the dough from the bowl, the other to help you shape it into a small ball. You can also use your hands instead of the second spoon. Try to make the balls about the same size (5-6 cm in diameter), place them on a tray lined with baking paper, so it’s easy to remove when you are ready to fry them. Flatten the surface of the ball slightly but don’t push down too much. Finally, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and start heating up your oil.
I am going to be honest with you and say that deep frying is my least favourite method of cooking or eating food. Unless it’s done perfectly, I won’t touch it. I hate when I get served greasy food. Let alone the health issues that arise from using bad oils, reusing them many many times and over heating the oil. If you’re not frying the food yourself, you really don’t know what’s happened during frying. It’s just not fun!
But then you CANNOT bake Ta’meyia dough, you just can’t. Actually, you can! because no one can force you not to. But if you did bake it for any reason, please (and I am down on my knees begging you) call it something else. You can call it The healthy vegetarian patty, you can call it umm … Baked beans patties with herbs, what ever you wish to call it but please not ta’meyia or falafel because it will never be the same. LOL!
let’s talk about oils and I hope I can make you feel better about frying your own food, and then I will let you go and make this recipe, I think I have talked too much. sorry!
Now, there are a lot of myths when it comes to using the right oil in frying food. For example, we’ve always been told never to use olive oil in frying, because it’s not stable enough and that it turns into a bad oil when reaching high temperatures, but is this true?
This is an article that I would like you to read. I bet it will change the way you think about olive oil. If you trust me on using olive oil in frying and you don’t have time to read this, then skip and go to the recipe below. But I would like you to read it when you can. Also, if you have any comments or other trusted resources regarding oils used in frying, I would love if you could share them with me.
“Olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid. Its high smoking point (210ºC) is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food (180ºC). Those fats with lower critical points, such as corn and butter, break down at this temperature and form toxic products ..” to read the rest of this article which I highly recommend, click on this link
The golden advice I would give you about frying ta’meyia, is to make sure the oil is hot enough before dropping your patties. You can test that by dropping a tiny piece of the dough, and if it starts sizzling immediately, then your oil is ready to use. Never start frying unless the oil is hot enough, because if it’s not, your Ta’meyia will soak up the oil and will end up being too greasy, and then you will get mad at me.
6. Assembling the sandwich
To make the perfect Ta’meyia sandwich, you need to assemble the ingredients in a way so that every bite has the the same balance of flavours. This is how I assemble mine:
I cut my bread in half, I open one half and place 2 ta’meyia at the bottom, I then slide in a couple of thin tomatoes and cucumber slices behind the patties, then place one large lettuce leaf across one side. I then scatter some coriander or mint leaves, or both around. Then I add two more ta’meyia at the top (if I can fit them). I drizzle some thick tahina sauce equally on top (I like it with extra tahina). Finally, I press firmly but carefully from the outside until I hear the ta’meyia crust cracking and the vibrant green starting to show. I then start digging in.
- 400 g dried split fava beans, soaked in cold water over night, rinsed and then drained well. (found in all middle eastern stores)
- 1 medium brown onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup fresh dill (discard the thick stems)
- 1 cup fresh coriander leaves
- a few fresh mint leaves
- 1 medium fresh red chilli, seeds removed and chopped coarsely(optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, for coating
- about one litre good quality regular olive oil or sunflower oil.
- an oven tray lined with baking paper (for the patties)
- 1/4 cup organic tahini paste
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt to taste
- 6-10 tablespoons warm filtered water, to adjust consistency.
- 8 pita (pocket) round bread, cut in halves (preferably wholemeal)
- tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce leaves, fresh mint and coriander leaves.
- In a large bowl, soak the split fava beans in plenty of cold water overnight to rehydrate and double in size.(soak for at least 12 hours)
- Rinse and drain well. Place on a dry kitchen towel to get rid of excess water.
- Place the fresh green leaves (parsley, dill,coriander and mint) in a large blender and blend for 6-7 seconds.
- Add onions, garlic cloves, coriander seeds to the blender and blend for another 8 seconds.
- Add the drained beans, ground cumin, and salt and blend for a further 10 seconds.
- Stop blending and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl using a rubber spatula.
- Blend again for another 20-30 seconds or until the beans mix well with the rest of the ingredients, reaching a grainy texture but not too coarse. see photos above.
- place the dough in a large bowl add the bicarb soda and mix it in well.
- leave the dough for 10 mins while you prepare your bread, cut up the vegetables and make the tahini for your sandwiches.
- pour the oil in a heavy-based medium size pan to get it ready.
- start shaping the patties using the special falafel tool (found in middle eastern shops), or simply use a tablespoon to scoop out a heaped tablespoon of the dough, then use another spoon or your hands to shape the dough into a small ball about 5-6 cm in diameter. Place the ball on the tray lined with baking paper, and shape the next ball and so on flattening each ball slightly as you place it on the tray(don't push down too much, you need the patty to be about 1-1.5 cm thick)
- sprinkle the patties with sesame seeds.
- Start heating the oil and make another batch of the ta'meya on another tray,while you are waiting for oil to heat up.
- Test the temperature of the oil after 2 minutes of heating on medium heat by dropping a tiny bit of the dough in the oil, if it starts sizzling immediately, then your oil is ready to use.
- drop your patties one by one quickly but carefully into the oil, using your hand (only if you are confident enough) or an oily spoon.
- make sure you keep the oil at about the same temperature through out the whole frying process, to maintain the same colour and shape. I usually leave the heat on medium.
- turn the patties after 1-2 mins on the other side and then turn it again after another 2 mins.
- your patties are ready to remove from heat when they turn golden brown all around.
- drain fried ta'meyia on paper towels before you serve on a tray.
- serve warm. Ta'meya is best served immediately after frying.
- In a bowl, add all ingredients except the water, add the warm water gradually and whisk until you reach a runny consistency. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.
- cut the pita bread into halves
- depending on the size of your bread. Put 2 or more ta'meyia patties into each pocket surround them with tomatos and cucumber slices, scatter around some mint or coriander leaves, or both.
- finally drizzle with plenty of tahini sauce.
- arrange your filling in a way, so that each bite has the same balance of flavours.