One common question I’m often asked by people thinking about embarking on a plant-based diet is, where will I get my protein? Often followed by, what about my iron, calcium, and (if they're really savvy), my B12?
These are all valid questions and ones I’d love to tackle in more depth here on the blog. So today I wanted to focus on the protein and iron part of this equation. And of course share with you this incredible Falafel Salad recipe, served on a silky soft bed of Massaged Kale, and smothered in the best ever creamy Garlic Tahini Dressing. Heavenly, I tell you.
I’ve spoken about protein before, most notably in this Top 75 Sources of Plant-Based Protein post here. If you’re interested in discovering a few new places to get high quality protein in your diet, that aren’t all chicken breast and egg whites, then definitely have a read of that.
Iron - the power nutrient
Iron meanwhile is something I haven’t discussed much before, but it’s an important one to cover. Iron is the most common mineral deficiency in the world, affecting 2 billion people or over 30% of the world’s population. This is particularly prevalent amongst women, children and pregnant women, in both developing and industrialised countries as well.
This is caused by a number of factors – inadequate intake of a range of iron rich foods; poor absorption due to malabsorptive conditions, suboptimal diet, alcohol, coffee, environmental factors and stress; infectious disease in developing countries; and other compounding nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, vitamin A and folate. Not only can iron deficiency make you feel tired and run down, it can also cause more serious consequences such as impaired physical and cognitive development in children, or failure to thrive.
It’s a common misconception that the only place you can get iron is from red meat, and yet there are so many more wonderful sources if you look past the media hype and beef and lamb industry propaganda (have a look next time you're at the doctors surgery on the back of the nutritional pamphlets... you might be shocked to find who the authors are). Chickpeas in particular are one of my favourite iron pumping foods, with 2.9g per 100g of cooked beans (similar to red meat). They’re easy to source, simple to cook (or you can buy pre-cooked in cans), high in protein (19%), and as you’re going to find out shortly, exceptionally delicious in these falafels!
This gorgeous recipe is super quick, light and easy. It takes a classic falafel combination, jams it packed with fresh herbs for flavour, colour and extra nutrients, then sets them atop a gorgeously smooth massaged kale salad. All topped off with the most amazing creamy Garlic Tahini Dressing. You are going to want to make double the dressing recipe alone after you try it, it’s that good.
The only prep you have to do for these falafels is to simply pop your dry chickpeas in a big bowl of water the night before. They’ll soak up all the water (two cups of chickpeas will quickly become five), and become soft and tender. You can even do this two days in advance which I often do, so that the chickpeas have begun to sprout by the time you cook them, enhancing their nutritional content even more (the amount of protein actually increases after sprouting!). Simply rinse off the next evening, drain and use, or leave the drained chickpeas sitting in your colander covered with a tea towel for another day to let them sprout.
I’ve served these gorgeous falafel salads with some simple toasted wholemeal pita breads, along with extra Garlic Tahini Sauce for drizzling. The whole recipe makes 42 odd falafels so enough to feed a crowd of 8, but we normally just save the extras for a second dinner or popping on lunches over the coming days. They make great salad toppers to add a punch of protein and iron to your lunch, or inside salad stuffed pita pockets!
If you give these delightful Falafel Salads with Garlic Tahini Sauce a go, let me know how you go in the comments below. Or share your Middle Eastern creations on Instagram with the tags @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Have a fantastic rest of your Friday, FriYAY!
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Makes 42 Falafels (Serves 8)
Takes 15 minutes (+ overnight pre-soaking)
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2 c dry chickpeas (soaked overnight)*
1 c fresh parsley (packed)
1 c fresh coriander (packed)
4 cloves of garlic
1 lemon (zest, juice and flesh)
1 tbsp cumin
1 large onion (diced)
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
1 bunch kale
1/2 c red onion (thinly sliced)
1c tomatoes (chopped)
1c cucumber (sliced)
1 tbsp olive oil
* 5 cups soaked and sprouted
c = 250ml cup, tbsp = 15ml tablespoon, tsp = 5ml teaspoon