Saffron Pumpkin Falafel with Beetroot & Walnut Hummus


Have you ever had one of those weeks / months where nothing is as straight forward as it should be?

I’m having one of those moments right now.

Firstly one of my cats had to visit the vet for a scrape and polish on her teeth. That wasn’t as straight forward as it should have been and we ended up back at the vet’s for some antibiotics.

Then came my dental check-up. All okay apart from a loose filling that I was aware of beforehand. At the appointment where the filling had to be re-done it turned out that it wasn’t as straight forward as either me or the dentist had thought. It turns out that something had crept in between my tooth and the filling and had slowly, over time, killed my tooth.


My poor tooth is dead. I feel as if I should be grieving for it or something. It looks perfectly fine on the outside, but the inside is not as it should be, because it is dead. Poor, poor, poor tooth. I keep looking at it and saying “poorly tooth, we’ll make you better”. Is that weird? Am I telling you too much?

Anyway, it can be made better but the words ‘root canal’, ‘crown’ and a large amount of money were mentioned. It’s the smallest molar of the lot, why can’t the cost be representative of the size of the tooth?! And yes, I pulled that face too when the words ‘root canal’ were mentioned, but my dentist (who is lovely and asks if you’ve had breakfast that morning and then gives you a big thumbs up and an “excellent” when you confirm that you have, so how can you not like him) assures me that it will be no different from having a normal filling. The difference being the length of time for the appointment (an hour and a quarter. I told him I don’t think I can keep my mouth open for that long), oh, and the cost. I have a few weeks until the appointment so there is plenty of time to run away prepare myself.

But enough about my dental woes. Back to the recipe, although that wasn’t as straight forward as it was supposed to be either.


Somehow I managed to pick the hardest pumpkin ever grown. It was only 1kg in size but it made up for its small stature in rock-hard flesh. The knife got stuck in it, ironically in a Halloween kind of way as it was poking out the top and looked like a pumpkin that had been stabbed with a large kitchen knife. Which it had. By me. Only as I was trying to pull the knife free I had horrible visions of it suddenly breaking loose and either impaling itself in my hand or my stomach. The knife was eventually released, without incident, using some gentle wiggling.

After having stern words with the pumpkin I then had to give the food processor a talking to. This was supposed to be a ‘bung it all in the processor and blitz it’ kind of recipe and whilst I can forgive the processor for stumbling over the hardest bits of the pumpkin, it should not have balked at the chickpeas. I had to take it all out and re-blitz in small baby food sized portions. Which took for-ever.


While the falafel were baking I told the processor that if it tried for one moment to refuse to blitz the cooked beetroot that was coming up next then it would find itself shunned and put in the garage and replaced with a processor that did the job it was supposed to do with complaining.

It did blitz the beetroot, but in a way that made it seem as it was answering me back.

Inanimate objects and their attitudes. Tsk.

Anyway, much later than I had planned, I finally finished this recipe. The earthiness of the beetroot and ground cumin in the hummus compliments the flavour of the saffron in the falafel.

Saffron has quite a strong flavour so if you aren’t that keen on it then you could only use half the amount and it will be more subtle.

Also, don’t be afraid to be heavy-handed with the lemon, these falafel can take it.

It will come as no surprise that I had some chickpea halves in my falafel, but actually, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. It adds texture.


PS – I do not wish to hear any horror stories about the ‘R-C’ procedure that I have to go through. I really would prefer to live in ignorance on this one. Although if you any suggestions on what would be good to listen to on my ipod while the dentist rummages around in my mouth for an hour and 15 minutes, then please let me know. But no Nine Inch Nails, that would just be insensitive.

PPS – I hope your food processor doesn’t give you as much jip as mine did. If it does, maybe we should start a support group.

Saffron Pumpkin Falafel with Beetroot & Walnut Hummus

Print version

Saffron Pumpkin Falafel

Makes approximately 24 – 30 falafel, depending on how big you roll them.


  • 80g raw sunflower seeds
  • 0.4g saffron, dissolved in 1tbsp of warm water
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 500g pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 480g cooked chickpeas (this is 2 tins, drained)
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper


  1. Place the sunflower seeds, saffron, garlic, lemon zest and juice and the pumpkin in a food processor. Blitz until blended.
  2. Add the chickpeas and the oil and blitz again until it forms a rough dough.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and season with the cayenne pepper and freshly ground salt and pepper. Add more lemon if you wish also.
  4. Cover with cling-film and put in the fridge for ten minutes.
  5. Whilst the mixture is chilling, pre-heat the oven to 175 celsius / 155 fan / 325 farenheit.
  6. Form the mixture into balls and place on a baking sheet. Don’t over crowd the baking sheet or they will steam rather than going golden.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden.

(Recipe adapted from one found in The Simple Things magazine)

While the falafel are baking, make the hummus.

Beetroot and Walnut Hummus


  • 100g walnuts
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 30g stale bread (gluten-free if needed), with the crusts removed and torn into chunks
  • 500g cooked beetroot
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A little olive or rapeseed oil
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper


  1. Place the walnuts, ground cumin, bread, beetroot, tahini, garlic, most of the lemon juice and a splash of oil into a food processor. Blitz until blended. Season and taste, adding more salt, pepper, lemon juice or oil as needed.

(Recipe from River Cottage)