Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters
Our taxi driver confidently lead us down a shabby lane in Cairo. It was such a hot and dusty day and the atmosphere around the roads was subdued. We dodged the rocks and stones that had dislodged from the road and buildings and skipped over small mounds of stinking rubbish. I shot huffy expressions towards my explorative and overly-polite husband who simply adjusted the cap on his head, mopped his face and said, ‘come on babe, lets just see’.
Lets just see? What did he mean? What if something happened to us? I’m a natural worrier and this, together with having had regretful holiday experiences in the past, had fired off dozens of atrocious images in my mind from being food poisoned to being shot.
I reassured myself that our driver was in fact a lovely, pious man. He had gelled quite well with my husband and he told us lots of stories to pass the journey times during out holiday. Whilst we stumbled and hopped along the path he was leading us along, towards this supposedly acclaimed restaurant, he was telling us why men in his hometown wore a bruised forehead. Apparently it demonstrated their religious devotion and credited them to be god following people because you could see that they bowed down for prayer regularly.
So, we weren’t shot. We arrived at the restaurant and it had a feel of the rainforest cafe in London. The roofs were leafy and crowded in a fun sort of way. Fake birds bobbed up and down above us, but they added to the rainforest feel. Fish swam beside us and whilst we settled ourselves at our table and my inner child was tickled. As you can imagine, I was smiling and that unrequited, ‘I told you so’ naturally blurted at me.
So I wondered off to watch this giant man rub his hands a couple of times and produce perfect falafels into the biggest wok I had ever seen. It was bubbling with steaming hot oil and none of the chickpeas escaped. Perfumes of tahini and parsley dominated the smoke above him. But then I saw his hands appear blood stained. Flutters of panic seared through me..he wasn’t cooking with meat was he? Was I right all along?
It was beetroot. He was stuffing grated beetroot into the falafels. He was watching my expression and then he and his big toothy grin handed one to me on a plate.
It was sweet, nutty and slightly spicy. Probably the way I’d describe my favourite friends and oh my goodness they were crispy and addictive. I wanted more. I couldn’t believe how fluffy they were, so light. They taste a bit like little burgers, I’d happily stick them in some pitta with dollops of hummus.
So I came back and I created these beauties. You know I like spice so I’ve whacked in some beautiful smokey chipotle, it makes the whole combination more sensual. I’ve got salty feta in there too and it works in harmony with sweet beetroot. I love these because they are moist without being pasty. I don’t add plain flour because it gives it that texture that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Instead I have used gram flour and chickpeas to give that nuttiness. Whether you eat these with salad or as a burger, you’ll find them easy to make and freezer friendly.
300g cooked beetroot, grated
100g chickpeas, squashed
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tbsp chipotle paste
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg lightly beaten
3 tbsp gram flour
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions finely chopped
Oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
Salt to taste
1. Squeeze as much if the juice out of beetroot as possible
2. Add the onion, feta, spices, herbs and add the chickpeas by squishing them between your fingers. Use the salt carefully because feta is salty.
3. Add the chipotle paste, gram flour and the egg. Mix it all together before adding the breadcrumbs. If you feel that the mixture is too wet add a bit more gram flour
4. Form golf sized balls before dropping them into the warmed oil. Shallow fry them until they are golden brown on each side and serve with an Asian style cucumber salad.
For the cucumber salad
Peel one whole cucumber and stir it together with
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil