Falafel: feeding a family of four without costing the earth




It’s a bit like focaccia and ochre – I have no idea how you actually say them and every time someone tells me, it goes in one ear and straight out the other. 

Actually, I do know how to say focaccia, courtesy of an over-keen seventeen-year-old behind the counter at McDonalds when they were serving their Italian menu. But I've just googled ‘How do you say focaccia?’, just to be sure, and listened to a nine second YouTube clip, much to the amusement of the OH sitting next to me. And so, I can inform you that the McDonalds linguist was right: it’s a ch at the end, like the ch in Cinzano. And it's cha, not a ch-ee-a, which is what I was mistakenly doing.

Anywayyyy, enough Italian already. FA-la-fel, fa-la-FEL, fa-LA-fel.

Things have been getting a bit tight recently. Have you noticed?

The price of food's creeping up and my local supermarket’s stopped stocking half their Value brand products because too many people were buying them. Shopping’s no longer a saliva-inducing stroll through a smorgasbord of affordable choices but a bare-knuckle fight in the reduced items section of the refrigeration aisle.

Take last Thursday:

I’m standing in Canned Vegetables and scanning the shelves: across, down, up, across, down, up. Where’s the 29p instant mash?

You’re in ‘Vegetables’, I hear you say.

Yeah, yeah. Funny! I’ve checked the packet: it did see a potato some time during production and at least the potato wasn’t sensate whilst being grown and transported and then massacred into something us consumers like to call food.

But that’s beside the point. We were talking Value product mystery: pickled beetroot, cupasoups, frozen cauliflower. (I’m sounding like some kinda weird food freak here, aren’t I?)

Across, down, up, across, down, up.


I say this out loud. It comes out in a sort of squealy squawk. My eyes are starting to well up (it was a bad day).

A woman in front of Dolmio (food Prada as far as my purse is concerned) glances at me sideways and I suppress my desire to shout ‘You have no idea! You’re buying branded sauce!’ and just about stop myself from throwing a tantrum in front of the Bigga mushy peas (value brand mushy peas having disappeared with the crew of the Marie Celeste some time in the Eighteenth century).

And this, neatly (or maybe not), brings me back to falafel.

On the shelf above the bright blue packs of Batchelors peas I spot split peas at the bargain price of 55p a bag. They’re in my trolley before you can say 'soak for 24hrs'. I cheer up and forget about the instant mash.

Back home, I google the aforementioned and poorly acknowledged little pulse and get...falafel. So I plan ahead: next Meat Free Monday I give them their bath, boil them up for an hour, zizz them in the madge with garlic and onion, then bake them in the oven for half an hour (they’re high maintenance little fellas). 

And they’re a success! Gone in five minutes and I feed a family of 4 for 55p without costing the earth.

While we're eating, my girls and I discuss how one day a week can make a world of difference (Meat Free Monday's strapline). According to the FAO, the livestock sector is currently one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems. You can watch a little 2 minute YouTube clip about it here.

My girls are now all ‘FAlafel, faLAfel, falaFEL’ and I keep going back to the YouTube clip to make sure I’m saying it right so next time I’m in my local vegan cafe I don’t end up sounding like my mother-in-law ordering a ‘cup of chino’ in Starbucks.

And if you’re still disturbed about the instant mash here’s the recipe I use for cheap, quick and tasty potato gnocchi (and the falafel one for good measure!). 

Read my other foody post: Edge of the lettuce: how much food am I wasting?

Emma is a columnist and feature writer for Liberti Magazine.

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