Recipe for History: Moroccan Pumpkin Falafel

Ahh, Moroccan Pumpkin Falafel, a classic recipe.

What, you mean you’ve never heard of Moroccan Pumpkin Falafel?! That’s because I made it up, people! Duh. Get it together. One must have an obligatory pumpkin recipe in the autumn, mustn’t one?

Keep your Pumpkin Spice Lattes, basics, this pumpkin dish is the advanced class!

Just How OLD Is Falafel?

Falafel’s history is somewhat obscure. The word itself traces back to meaning “pepper”, as in peppercorn, referring to the falafel ball’s shape. Ownership of the original recipe is argued about, but the most common theory is that it may date back as far as Pharaonic Egypt. It’s a popular dish in the Middle East and North Africa, with each country having it’s own combination of fava beans, chickpeas or both plus a myriad of herbs and spices. Falafel is popular in Morocco, so it’s not a stretch that I decided to flavor it like my favorite beef tagine. Moroccan food is full of sweet, spicy and savory combinations, so this savory pumpkin falafel is topped with a sweet and tangy sauce that complements it perfectly and evokes all the flavors of a delicious tagine but in a bite-sized, easy to carry dish.

This recipe is very simple if you have the right tools, which for this recipe are a food processor, a stick blender/regular blender, and spoons. YES SPOONS. Just wait, it’s okay, I’ll explain in a minute.

Moroccan Pumpkin Falafel

moroccan pumpkin falafel ingredients

So what makes this falafel Moroccan? The spices. I used a spice blend called Ras el Hanout to season these savory falafel balls. Ras el Hanout translates to “head of the shop”, indicating a house blend of spices using the highest quality product, and is a key spice blend in North African cuisine, similar to how garam masala works in Indian cuisine. Ras el hanout combines both sweet and savory spices for a unique take. The blend I used contains cumin, ginger, kosher salt, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne pepper, allspice and cloves. Savory, sweet and savory are all flavors common in tagine, a traditional North African stew which often contains both sweet ingredients like dried fruit and honey, and savory ingredients like onions, garlic and tomatoes.  Those are the flavors I used for the dipping sauce. Falafel can be made with any variety of fresh herbs, but I chose cilantro. Cilantro and parsley are common in Moroccan cuisine, so feel free to substitute parsley if you’re not a fan of cilantro, but know that my heart weeps for your genetic composition.

making ras el hanoutMaking the Ras el Hanout is super easy: just stir the spices together.

making tagine dipping sauceThe dipping sauce is also pretty easy. Combine the tomato paste, onions, garlic, prunes, salt and honey with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes before blending until smooth. It should be the consistency of ketchup.

making the falafel mixThe falafel itself should take maybe 3 minutes max to blend up. Pulse the chickpeas with the cilantro until a coarse meals is formed, then add the spices and pumpkin. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the bowl when necessary. Now comes the part where you need either a small ice cream scoop (1 oz size would work best) or two teaspoons and the quenelle method!

Easier than it looks!

frying the falafelFry the falafels in hot oil until golden brown, then drain on paper towels. Serve with the dipping sauce for that delicious Moroccan flavor.

Moroccan Pumpkin Falafel

I hope you give this recipe a try and let me know how you love it!

Andrea Freitas