I have a big catering job coming up.
A group of ladies that come together to craft and talk and eat. I have been doing their lunches for the last few times and always like to make it interesting. I need a lunch box that is yummy, has gluten and dairy free options, yummy, healthy, easily eaten without mess, and of course, yummy. I happily adjust my menu to accommodate InTolerances and if people have special requests I always try my best. Some requests I've had are for 'squishy' food- lady has braces; no garlic- quite common actually; and 2 ladies have a chicken farm and cannot abide chicken!
This salad covers most of these, but I make a 50/50 split with another meal, so people can always swap if they want to. I'll write about the other salad shortly, but today is all about my Baked Pumpkin Chickpea and Felafel Salad.
Start off with a decent felafel mix. Yes, of course you can make your own, but I'm looking at A LOT of salads and need to save time somewhere- I still have morning and afternoon teas to make as well. These are a couple of great gluten free mixes, they are both yummy and taste fairly similar, but I actually like to blend them together and get the best of both worlds.
The Mix is so very simple. Just add water. That's it. Leave for a while to firm up, then mold into balls. I'm making mini ones so they can be stabbed easily with a fork and eaten in one little ladylike chomp. If you are using your hands, keeping them wet stops the mix sticking to you, but as I need uniformity I use a little scoop for shaping, don't compress it too much or it won't bi nice and fluffy inside. Set aside for a bit to rest and start preparing the pumpkin.
Pumpkin is such a yummy vegetable. It has a lovely sweetness and pretty colour that this dish really needs to give it a lift. You can use any sort of pumpkin, today I chose butternut simply because it was on special!
Peel and chop the pumpkin into little cubes. Again, mine are quite small, but make yours the size you want them.
Toss in some oil and a little salt and bake them on a lined tray until browned and softened. Be careful not to cook them until squishy as they will disintegrate in the salad as soon as you try to toss it.
Now, you have a couple of options. Traditionally, felafels are deep fried until crisp on the outside and piping hot on the inside. This of course, is the best way to have them. But... they can also be shallow fried, or even baked. Which ever method you choose, just be really careful not to overcook them, remember there is no meat or such to cook through, so they don't take long. If you leave them too long they will be horrible, hard lumps that can be used as weapons to throw at people you don't like. Today I'm shallow frying as I'm just doing the dry run for testing weights and quantities, but on the actual day I'll probably deep fry them for speed and convenience.
Let your little felafelly and pumpkiny treasures cool down while you get on with things.
Drain a good quality tin of chickpeas and rinse them well to get rid of any goopiness. If you have time feel free to soak and cook your own, but remember I need a bit of a hand preparing for crowds.
This salad needs a tasty dressing that will compliment the spiciness of the felafels while not overpowering the pumpkin. I like to use a yogurt base with a bit of tahini and a splash of lemon juice for sharpness, and throw in a clove of garlic. Blend it all together and thin it down with a bit of water if you need to.
Now the greens.... spinach is so tasty and good for you, think of Popeye! A good handful for each person is usually enough. Also chop up some nice flat leafed parsley, stems and all, and mix in. 3-4 cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half add that extra burst of sweet juiciness to finish the lot off.
Toss the felafels, pumpkin, chickpeas, greens and tomatoes together gently.
Drizzle lightly with the yoghurt dressing and pop into cute little containers like these noodle boxes. Or for more of a family meal serve the salad on it's own, with the felafels served hot on the side.