Colourful Veggie Falafel with Pickled Turnips

December 9th, 2013

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Creating different falafel recipes has become a sort of hobby for me ever since I met my husband thirteen years ago. A falafel wrap is his favorite meal of all times, and he is definitely the person to ask about the best falafel in town – any town that he is familiar with. One of our favorite Lebanese restaurants serves falafel with fresh radishes and crunchy pickled vegetables, which are the perfect, refreshing addition to a Lebanese meal. After some research, I learned that those delicious pickles are turnips, which are traditionally pickled with beets to make for the most brilliant pink colour. In this recipe, I shredded the turnips with a spiralizer for a pretty presentation, but you can simply slice them before pickling.
I came up with the recipe for these colorful veggie falafel for cooking with Paloma, who loves to help out in the kitchen as long as bright colours and fun shapes are involved. Our market is full of fresh, bright, local varieties of vegetables (growing season here!), just in time for this colourful meal. But those of you in wintery weather can also enjoy this spicy, warming falafel, as flavours of sweet potato, beets and spinach are involved.

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Colourful Veggie Falafel 
(makes about 40)

for the falafel
4 tablespoons flax meal/ground flax seeds – divided
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup pecans
1 1/4 cups cooked or canned chickpeas – drained well and dried with paper towels
3 tablespoons sesame tahini
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 garlic clove – minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste
large handful each parsley and mint leaves (optional)
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods – crushed, green shells discarded (optional)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
1 small or 1/2 medium sweet potato – peeled and finely shredded
1 small or 1/2 medium beet – peeled and finely shredded

to prepare the falafel
1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Combine 3 tablespoons of flax meal with the sesame seeds and set aside for coating the falafel.
2. In a food processor, grind the pecans into a coarse meal. Add in the reserved 1 tablespoon of flax meal, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, coconut sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and herbs (if using).
3. Grind the cumin, cardamom and mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle or a designated coffee grinder, then add to the food processor.
4. Process everything until well combined, scraping the walls of the food processor if needed. Take care not to puree, the mixture should remain somewhat chunky.
5. Divide the mixture into three even portions, leaving one in the food processor. Add the spinach to the food processor and combine well. Remove from the processor into a designated bowl and wipe the machine clean.
6. Put the second portion of the chickpea mixture into the food processor, along with the shredded sweet potato, and process to combine. Remove the sweet potato/chickpea mixture into a designated bowl, no need clean the food processor this time.
7. Repeat the same with the shredded beet and the last portion of the chickpea mixture.
8. Form falafel balls of three different colours, rolling each ball in the flax and sesame coating as you go. Place them on a parchment paper covered baking tray. If the spinach and/or beet mixture turned out too moist for handling, simply add about 1/4 cup of ground rolled oats to absorb the extra moisture.
9. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the falafel every 5 minutes to achieve even colour. Let cool.
10. Serve wrapped in any favorite green leaves (lettuce, collard greens or cabbage) or in pita bread pockets. Garnish with pink pickled turnips, fresh radish and cucumber slices, Greek style yogurt with lime juice to taste mixed in, herbs and/or hummus.

Pink Pickled Turnips

1 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lb turnips – spiralized or peeled and sliced into sticks or any other way you prefer
1/2 small beet – peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove – thinly sliced
a few sprigs of fresh dill or dill flower (optional)
dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

1. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of water with the salt to dissolve. Let cool.
2. Place the turnips, beet, bay leaf, garlic, dill and pepper flakes into a clean glass jar.
3. Add the vinegar and the remaining 1 cup of water to the salty water, and pour the brine over the vegetables. Cover and let sit at room temperature to pickle for one week. Refrigerate until ready to serve and use within one month.

Tags: beets, falafel, recipe, spinach, sweet potato

  • I love the multi-colored falafel idea. This will be a fun one to cook with my nephews! They’ll eat anything as long as it’s pink!

  • Joan Nova says:

    What a creative way to spotlight falafels. Great party item too!

  • elizabeth says:

    Those look lovely.I have copied down your recipe, thank you!!
    Growing up, one of my best friends was Lebanese. I was blessed to spend many days at their home and her Grandmother would prepare Lebanese food everyday. I had the great privilege to grow up eating this wonderful food. I too got hooked of falafels. The best ones I have ever eaten were in Lincoln Park, Chicago, when I was just out of Dental Hygiene school working for a dentist there. Two doors down the sidewalk from my office was the restaurant that had them. They also made the best hummus I have ever tasted!!!
    Peace & Raw Health,
    Elizabeth Marie

  • I’ve been admiring your blog for months already. You have such a wonderful style. Probably one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, food photos on the internet. I especially like your color combinations. Congratulations!

  • Dawn says:

    These look fabulous, so colourful. I will definitely try as I adore falafel. I’ve tried a few recipes with limited success. Agree, great party addition.

  • LaReine says:

    I want to make these for my dads bday potluck tomorrow! Can I pickle the radishes in 24 hours? Or they won’t taste pickly? Will they get pink enough?
    These look incredible and I really want to impress everyone!

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  • Deb says:

    Wow ! Your blog is amazing, i read it in french (thank you for thinking of French speakers : )), and it’s just the most beautiful, delightful, creative blog i’ve ever seen. I’ve spend like 4 hours to read it entirely, so i can’t wait to order your book in 2014.
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  • […] colorful veggie falafel with pickled turnips are a delightful, seasonal spin on a classic dish. So creative and […]

  • […] colorful veggie falafel with pickled turnips are a delightful, seasonal spin on a classic dish. So creative and […]

  • Jamie Lee says:

    Beautiful food photography. I’ve never attempted to make falafel at home but this recipe makes it seem less intimidating. Looks amazing!

  • Красота какая!!!
    In the past i tried to bake felafels but they were not that great. You have just inspired me to try again. Yours look amazing. Perfecto, once again :)

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  • Emily says:

    Pickled turnips = YUM!

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