It's normally always there, lingering in the back of the cupboard, the lid slightly encrusted with a beige residue and the oil separated from the paste, sitting on top in a questionable pool. Then there is a fight to get the near solidified clay out of the bottom and not bend the spoon. And that's all before you discover you haven't got a tin of chickpeas anyway so have to go to the shop. Again.But fear not! This homemade tahini will save the day. And if there's ever a houmous crisis in the shops again, you can whip up your own in a jiffy. And then you can put it in a jar in the fridge and the whole family dip a carrot stick in it for lunch on Saturday then forget about it until you throw it away a week later as you wonder why you bother.Of course, this all depends on you having a bag of sesame seeds in the cupboard. I'd suggest that it is a staple worth having, and really, it's nicer making your own tahini anyway. It just (as with most things that are freshly made) tastes so much better. And you know it only has what you put in it in it.MethodTo make a jam jar sized amount of fresh tahini, sprinkle sesame seeds all over an oven tray, you can be very generous. Heat the oven to 180c and roast the seeds until they start to colour a little and toast. Stir them round occasionally so they don't burn.Leave to cool a little then put in the food processor and blitz until you have a crumbly mix. Slowly add in some neutral oil, such as groundnut or rapeseed and keep blending until you have a creamy paste. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge.Apart from houmous -- which I would recommend making using dried chickpeas for a better finished dish, but, if you only have tinned I'm not going to judge you -- tahini can be used in dressings, sauces with some yoghurt, drizzled over roast carrots or even put into ice cream. And what's more, there's a little more cupboard space and the satisfaction of the homemade.
I've had falafels in the past where I'm not sure if they've dropped a squash ball in the wrap and disguised it with garlic mayonnaise or after a busy day, they've swept all the dust from the floor and glued it together with chilli sauce. That could, however, be down to the kind of places I've visited and the time of day I've found myself there.I've heard talk here and there of the best falafel in London, without really paying attention, but toastandbutter.net mentions a place just down the road from me. I will visit one day, it's down the path of good intentions. It's just that the thought of dragging myself over to a windswept and lonely park isn't very appealing.In the meantime, I've made my own, and honestly, these are the best falafels I've ever made. However, I think they may be the only falafels I've ever made. I'd recommend eating them fresh from the pan, hot, just slightly crumbly and wrapped in warm, homemade flatbreads with chilli sauce and peppers.If you like, you can make the mix, shape it and keep it covered in the fridge for a day. It's better to cook them to order than to eat them after they've been hanging around for a while, like someone in a kebab shop queue.Let me know how you make yours, and if you have any secret ingredients.Ingredients1 tin of chickpeas. Even better would be the equivalent amount, dried and soaked overnight, but you may have forgotten, like I did, or maybe you can't be bothered. Either is fine2 banana shallots, finely sliced. Peeled of course1 red onion, finely sliced, as above1 mild red chilli, chopped (or more if you like them poky)2tsp ground cumin2tsp ground corianderA pinch of grated nutmegA handful of baby spinach, quickly wilted, finely chopped and cooled1 free-range egg, lightly beaten2tbsp olive oil2tbsp chickpea (gram) flour for dusting. Or plain flour if you don't have anySalt and pepper. Use decent salt with everything, please250ml rapeseed oil for frying I like HillfarmMethodSlowly sauté the onion, shallots and spices in a pan until soft and golden. Season well, add the chilli and cook for a minute more.Put this in a large bowl, add the spinach, chickpeas, egg and a dash of olive oil then mix well.Mash the mixture together. I used my hands for the fun of it. I won't do it that way again, it took ages. I'd use a potato masher or stick blender, but be sure to not turn it into a purée. It's best if some of the chickpeas remain whole or halved to give a better texture.When you're happy with the mix, shape them using your hands or two tablespoons into quenelle-like shapes. You can then squash these down into patties if you like.Dust them in the flour and put in the fridge to firm for about an hour.Heat a deep pan with the rapeseed oil to about 180c and when ready, slowly drop in a few of the falafels, one at a time. Cook until golden all over, turning them occasionally in the oil. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain while you finish the rest.Serve with tahini yoghurt and some flatbreads and banish those bad memories.