Thursday, 11 July 2013

Calgary Stampede Falafel Stand

It’s that time of year again, and we were thrilled to watch the Chuckwagon Races and the fireworks from the best vantage point in Calgary—Roger and Darlene’s home.  With three decks to choose from, we were ensured of an astonishing view.  Last year I took a biryani, but this year, the new finger food format made me think falafel stand.  The hosts' home looms over the grounds, above all those hot dogs on sticks and even deep fried butter.  Why can't the Stampede Board offer more delicious fare? Looking off to the East would do us Westerners a huge favour.

My Eastern Western falafel stand includes falafel stuffed in pita pockets, with all the trimmings, and also a hummis to eat with pita triangles.  It took about forty five minutes to prepare.

I once made falafel from scratch, but it was involved, and a Syrian friend blinked, asking why would I do that when so many easy commercial mixes are available.  (I had to admit mine tasted no different from the stuff one buys in a box.)

So, go ahead and buy one of the boxed mixes.  All you need to do is add water, stir, let sit for about twenty minutes, then make patties and fry them on medium heat.  I used both a melon baller and my hands to create the patties.  My hands made a smoother ball, but either way, I pan fried them in a little canola oil till they were browned and crispy. 

The hummus is crazy easy to make.  Open a can of chickpeas, drain, and toss into a blender, along with a clove of fresh garlic, the juice from one lemon, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of tahine (sesame butter available everywhere now) and buzz.  

Drizzle some good olive oil into the mix (about a tablespoon) and buzz again.  Taste and adjust for salt, and it you want it creamier, add a bit more olive oil and buzz again.  

Pour out onto a platter, and smooth it out enough to sprinkle a bit of smoked paprika about, and then drizzle a bit more olive oil over the hummus.  If you have some chive flowers, they’d look very nice too.

Buzzing the hummus takes a couple of minutes.
For the crunchy vegetables, I cut up about ten leaves of garden grown arugula, three big sprigs of fresh mint, and about ten stalks of cilantro, which I mixed over sliced radishes.

For the salty pickle, I served some of my Meyer lemon pickles, and garnished with a few chilies for the bravest of the souls.

Meanwhile, a tahine sauce was also required.  Take two tablespoons tahini, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of water.  Mix carefully with a fork.  At first it will seem impossible but suddenly the tahini will give and turn a lighter colour.  Keep adding a bit more water, stirring with a fork, till you get a creamy sauce.

Mixing the falafel powder is simple enough!
As finger food was needed, I went with mini pita pockets, which I halved.  But I also bought some regular size, and cut them into triangles.

To assemble:
Pop a falafel or two into a pita pocket, stuff in some crunchy veg, and dribble tahini sauce into it.  Add a bit of pickle or even chilli if you dare.  Use the pita cut into triangles to dip into the hummus, and enjoy.

Stampede parties are usually all about barbecued meat, so this crunchy vegetarian Middle Eastern dish is a nice surprise.  

The Saddle Dome with the Calgary Tower, they both look like giant cowboy hats in this crazed pic!

To cap off:

View of the grandstand!
1 box falafel mix
oil for frying

1 can chickpeas, drained
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove fresh garlic
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons plus good olive oil 
smoked paprika

Crunchy veg
1 bunch fresh radishes, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
10 arugula leaves, chopped
My favourite!
3 large sprigs of mint, chopped

Tahini sauce
2 tablespoons tahini
½ lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon plus water 

Garnishes all optional  
any pickle, as long as it isn’t sweet  --pickled turnip is available in some markets, it’s great!

chive flowers

The tahini sauce was off to the side-- doesn't take a fab pic, not by itself...

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