Sweet potato and spinach falafel

There are only so many chickpeas a self-respecting vegetarian can eat before he is officially branded a hippy and bought some green jeans and sandals. They are nutritious and cheap, but it’s good to ring the changes. Which is what we’re doing with these falafel. There isn’t a pulse in sight (unless you count the chickpea flour).

The origin of the word ‘falafel’ is thought to go back to ancient Persian and Sanskrit words for small ball-shaped peppers: thus the word really means ‘little balls’. So we can make them out of pretty much anything and still call them falafel.

Makes 12–18 (or 4 wraps) 

2 large sweet potatoes (about 700g/1lb 9oz), peeled and cut into small cubes
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp salt
pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2–3 tbsp chickpea flour (or use plain/all-purpose flour)
big handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 bunch of spinach, very finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5. Arrange the potatoes, onion and garlic on an oven tray, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the potato is cooked.

Allow to cool just a little, then blend with the remaining ingredients, but if you are using a blender be careful not to over-process it, as it will become quite pouppy, to use one of my Granny’s words.

Using wet hands, roll the mixture into little balls and place on a greased oven tray. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until pleasingly browned.* Serve the usual way, in pitta pockets with houmous, salad and pickles.

Serving idea: If you make small, flat sweet potato falafel, you can use them as canapés by sandwiching them between thick rounds of gherkin.

* You can also roll them in more chickpea flour, then deep-fry them for about 3 minutes each.

Persepolis: Vegetarian Recipes from Peckham, Persia and Beyond by Sally Butcher. Published by Pavilion Books (£25)

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