Cook the Book: Crunchy Red Swiss Chard Falafel\u00a0

[Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin]

I'm a fan of the falafel, the bright green variety. The crisp little chickpea fritters are brightened up with tons of finely chopped parsley and cilantro, and the added greenery does wonders for what can sometimes be a dauntingly dense sandwich. Silvena Rowe, author of Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume has taken the green falafel concept one step further with these fantastically light Crunchy Red Swiss Chard Falafel.

Instead of playing lead in this recipe, the chickpeas (in flour form) take a supporting role to the base, a choux-like dough that binds blanched chard, cumin and allspice-sautéed onions, and a little handful of whole chickpeas. Once chilled (an integral step so the falafel doesn't fall apart once it hits the oil) and fried, these little green balls are light, super crunchy, and finished off with a bit of turmeric for color and an earthy kick.

You could serve these guys with hummus or plain tahini, but I'd recommend giving Rowe's Tahini, Lemon and Sumac Sauce (see below) a shot. Creamy and pleasantly sour, it's the perfect foil for these crisp little falafel balls.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume to give away this week.

Reprinted with permission from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe, copyright © 2011. Published by Ecco.

Cook the Book: Crunchy Red Swiss Chard Falafel 

About This Recipe

Active time:45 minutes
Total time:2 hours


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pound red Swiss chard, well washed and roughly chopped
  • Scant 1 cup milk
  • Scant 1 cup chickpea flour
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cooked (canned) chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Ground turmeric for garnish
  • Tahini, Lemon and Sumac Sauce
  • Tahini, Lemon and Sumac Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 2 small lemons
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed sumac
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds


  1. 1

    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onion, cumin and allspice over medium heat for 3–4 minutes. Set aside in a bowl. 

  2. 2

    Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Drop in the chard and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and, once they’re cool enough to handle, squeeze dry. 

  3. 3

    In a medium nonstick saucepan, bring the milk to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Little by little, whisk in the chickpea flour until you have a smooth paste. Keep the mixture moving to avoid lumps. Then season, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and cook over low heat for 8 minutes, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Like cream puff dough, the mixture will come away from the sides of the pan and become a ball as it is heated. 

  4. 4

    Cool the ball of paste, then mix in the sautéed onions, chickpeas, lemon juice and blanched chard. Using your hands, mold the mixture into golf-ball-sized balls and arrange on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. 

  5. 5

    In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°F. Carefully place the falafel into the oil and cook for 3–4 minutes, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with the turmeric. Serve with the tahini sauce. 

  6. 6

    Tahini, Lemon and Sumac Sauce: Mix the tahini, cumin and the lemon juice in a bowl. Slowly stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, a little at a time, until you have a consistency that resembles thick cream. Then add the garlic and season.

  7. 7

    Combine the sumac with the olive oil and drizzle over the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve, with meat, poultry, vegetables or falafel.


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