Falafel in pita is one of my favourite street food snacks, and I adore the flavour of the aromatic chickpea balls slathered in sauce and packed into a toasty pita bread with tons of crunchy salad. Here I have added beetroot to the mix and popped it onto toasted mini pitas with a spicy mayo and slaw. Just like they do it at Lefty’s, my favourite dive bar in Cape Town. They do other dive bar food like ribs and fried chicken on waffles, but their beetroot falafel is by far my best.
I grated the beetroot in my Breville Whizz Pro because who wants to grate beetroot by hand. It took me about 10 seconds to do. I then swapped out the grater attachment with the blades and added all the other ingredients. I had fried the onions before. I kept a third of the raw beetroot, and half a tin of chickpeas aside so that I could add it right at the end to give the falafel balls some texture. When everything was processed, I added the chickpeas and gave it a quick pulse. I then added the remaining beetroot and mixed it for a second and then removed the blade. A quick stir through by hand ensures that everything is incorporated.
To make the slaw add whatever ingredients you like, but I used a mix of red and white cabbage which I finely shredded. I added finely chopped red onion too. I garnished my little open falafel sandwiches with a sprig of fresh coriander (cilantro) and a few crimson micro leaves, but rocket would work well.
To make a spicy mayo I used a curry chutney mixed in with my favourite store-bought mayo, and this was quite an important part of the overall success of the dish. I used the utterly delicious Quality Pickles Danya Chutney (coriander chutney) which has the perfect amount of sweet curry flavour to go with the falafel. You want some chilli, some curry flavour and some sweetness. Their website is a bit out of date so I can’t see where you can buy this, but I see their stuff around Cape Town at various markets and stores. To substitute, use another curry chutney that you like and add chilli if it doesn’t have any heat.
I have made these as an appetizer snack or tapas, but they would work just as well stuffed into a large toasted pita bread with all the salad and greens. A wrap or flatbread would also be delicious. I love to toast the bread first on a griddle pan. It gives it stunning flavour and crunchy texture.
Recipe – makes a LOT
- 500gm peeled raw beetroot
- 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
- 2T olive oil
- 1 red or white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1tsp cumin
- 1tsp salt
- 1Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 free-range egg
- 1Tbsp tahini
- 1T lemon juice
- small bunch (aprox 10g) coriander/cilantro, stalks on
- freshly ground black pepper
- oil for deep-frying
- half a cup of seasoned flour to dust
- slaw to serve
- spicy mayo (see above)
- fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
- micro leaves or other small salad leaves
- Toasted pita breads
Grate the beetroot and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a non stick pan and soften the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two. Set aside.
In the Breville Whiz Pro food processor, add all the ingredients except a third of the grated beetroot and half a tin of chickpeas. Process until well combined but not overly smooth. Add the chickpeas and pulse a few times until they have just broken up. Add the remaining beetroot and blend for a couple of seconds.
Heat sunflower oil in a medium heavy based pot or deep fat fryer. – You want the oil to be at least 10cm deep. I find using a smaller pot is easier as less oil is required.
Place the seasoned flour in a flat dish, and using a tablespoon measure, scoop out the falafel mix and drop onto the flour. Roll these lightly to dust in the flour.
Place layers of paper towel on a large tray and have a slotted spoon ready.
When the oil has reached 180C / 350F – drop about 10 – 12 balls into the oil and fry for about 3 – 5 minutes until they start going brown. Be careful not to overcrowd the oil as this will reduce the temperature. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper.
Brush the pita bread halves lightly with olive oil and toast them on a griddled pan to give them a toasty flavour and crunchy texture.
Spread the spicy mayo, add the slaw and garnish and serve.
For more of my favourite beetroot recipes:
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