The heroine fought her way out of her futon on the tatami, shuffling through the frosty cold to her unheated Japanese kitchen, where she warmed her hands by putting on the kettle for hot water to wash out the big soup pot, stored up on the highest wooden shelf. Next she rinsed out the small hemp cloth that she had found and carried with her across the world for its use in straining potions, liquids and juices for her daily sustenance.
She stood in her extra thick socks and indoor shoes on the darkened plank floor while she swirled and minced the soy beans she had soaked overnight in hand-filtered water until they glowed with a pale golden light. Pouring the ground beans and water into the big pot, she stirred them and waited for the paint smell of the raw beans to mellow. The top was foamy and frothy as the seafoam she remembered from her days of beach combing. As she worked she brewed some hot coffee and topped it with the cooked foam as she skimmed it off the soy milk. Finally the cooking and stirring was done and she stretched her hemp cloth over a small bucket and fixed it in place with four clothes pins. Raising the pot she poured the mixture through the cloth and then removed the pins and squeezed the milk out.
When she opened the cloth she saw the cooked bean husks, called okara. It was this that she had been especially wanting because it could be mixed with a few spices and herbs to make delicious felafel, enough for dinner and the next day's lunch besides, and a treat to warm the body and bones in the midst of a cold winter.
Preparing a noon meal of brown rice, cooked vegetables and the felafel with a lemony sesame sauce, our heroine sat down to a well-earned meal, all the more satisfying for having made most of it herself from the top to the tip, bean to bowl, pan to table.
"Enough", she said, rubbing her now warm hands, and thinking once again of her grandmother's kitchen. "It is enough." And it was.
Yesterday I made my second batch of soy milk, okara, and felafel with what I think are some nice improvements on the taste and texture that I wanted to tell you about before you try it, as I know you are dying to do.
Here's what I found. The felafel take too long to cook unless you deep fry them, as I didn't want to do, both to try to save on the oil and calories. After all, it's cold and it's winter, and all animals adapt to the cold with a bit of extra fat. No exceptions here.
When the felafel aren't cooked through they taste pasty in the middle and the texture is not good. I also found the recipe a little bland. I added a bit more garlic (2-3 cloves) and salt (1 tsp) and think that even more flavour would be none too much for these. I also did some research and found that traditional felafel is eaten all over the middle east and that there are a few variations. They either contain fava beans or they don't. They usually contain chickpeas. They are often eaten inside pita bread with a sauce made from sesame butter and lemon, and are usually garnished with tomatoes, cucumber or lettuce, or other vegetables and sometimes even sauerkraut.
I made a simple sesame sauce with equal parts of tahini (1/4 cup), which I had poured almost all the oil off, and fresh lemon juice (half a juicy lemon), a few spoons of yoghurt, a bit of chopped parsley and a clove of garlic mashed into a paste with salt. The sauce improved the felafel a lot. It was delicious, a bit like a fluffy sesame and garlic aioli. For the vegans and milk-allergic, which I am but sometimes I can have a little, I'm sure that soy yoghurt or even soy milk could be substituted for the milk. I found chopsticks the perfect instrument to whip up this sauce, especially since I made it with the last of the tahini right in the jar.
To make a better texture, I flattened the balls before frying into small thin patties. This allowed the felafel patties to cook through in a short time (about 2 minutes), and made it possible to cook them in less oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the frying pan. I also placed the finished patties on paper to drain as they came out of the pan.
Though I ate them with brown rice, I can see them being delicious with a gluten-free pita, or perhaps inside a toasted soft tortilla, with the sauce and whatever fresh veggies are available now. Or maybe some sauerkraut. I"ll be sure to try that when I make my next batch.
I'm hoping that I will be joined in this adventure to perfect the okara felafel by some other intrepid food bloggers. Or that some of you may develop other tasty okara recipes. If you do, I'd sure appreciate you leaving a link here. Maybe we can really turn this into a chronicle as we bravely set out to feed ourselves and our families. May the force be with us, and for good measure, Roooooarrrr!