It’s batter week on The Great British Bake Off but I’ll be honest and tell you I just couldn’t be bothered to give you a batter based recipe. My best Yorkshire pudding recipe is in my book and my best pancake batter recipe is on this site here, so instead I give you a really delicious little something to make one evening for dinner, as a snack, or just because. I give you my coriander falafel.
For anyone not familiar with falafel, think of them as the most satisfying deep fried chickpea based spiced veggie alternative to the humble meatball that ever did grace this earth. I first ate falafel past midnight in Amsterdam when backpacking around Europe as a 20 year old. They must, must must be hotter than hot or they’re not worth eating. So make them fresh and gobble them up straight from the fryer. Well, not literally straight, that would hurt your mouth.
And for those who are eagle eyed amongst you, this recipe does not require boiling of the chickpeas. You simply soak, blitz and fry. Try it – the texture is more toothsome and in my opinion, superior. Falafel can be made both ways, just for the record, so if you prefer to boil or use tinned chickpeas, that’s your prerogative.
Now, many of you will have seen that the Bake Off has been in the news this week rather a lot. Love Productions who make the show have decided to move it to Channel 4 after 7 years with the BBC. Then the news came that the presenters, Mel and Sue are not moving with the show. They are hanging up their Bake Off apron strings so to speak.
But why the move? Well, it seems the BBC pockets were not deep enough for Love Productions. Channel 4 simply offered more money. But there have been other ‘relationship issues’ – there was a fall out over a show about hairdressers made by the BBC, where Love sued them for having copied their GBBO show format. They also had a fall out over a similar painting show for the same reason.
I have been asked a lot what my thoughts are on this. Here’s the thing, it is hard to say no to more money in pretty much any area of life. You get offered more for your car than the next person offering and you take the highest offer don’t you? This is life. But then there is a history here. What if that buyer with the lower offer had helped you out when your car needed investment, what if they had helped you get on the road each morning so to speak. Do you owe them loyalty? Do you sell the car on to the buyer who helped you? I just don’t know. I’d like to think I have integrity, but when faced with a life changing amount of money, plus investors such as sky breathing down my neck, well I think I’d probably take the money. And then hide.
But only if I felt I was sure that the buyer with the higher amount would look after my car, wouldn’t strip it back and change it from the inside out. And of course this is not about a car, something that on the whole depreciates over time, this is about a ‘concept’ that is worth a lot of money. If it gets ruined at Channel 4 then Love won’t have anything left. The concept will be ruined. I guess the dilemma they had was whether they take the higher offer now and risk the worth of GBBO being compromised and hence not having such longevity or stay with the lower price and know it will go on for years to come. It’s a gamble taking the money but maybe it felt worth it. Maybe it was so much more they felt it insured against 5, 6, 7 more years of success at a lower BBC price.
And already Mel and Sue have said thanks but no thanks. This is of no surprise to me. I (and other GBBO contestants) have heard Sue talking about not doing another season for some time. Bake Off undoubtedly relaunched both their careers, but a whole new generation now love the duo, so their prospects are good. Why not go out on a high?
And Mary, well I do wonder if Mary will be next. She is very ‘BBC’ and has definitely felt the strain of GBBO more since it started back in 2010. It is incredibly hard work, long, long hours and often in pretty cold conditions. I recall her missing some filming last year, possibly the year before due to ill health. Who knows, certainly nobody would judge her for leaving at this high point. We’re all entitled to a retirement, aren’t we?
Now Paul I think will hold on. I can’t see another gig that would fund his Aston Martin habit in quite the same way. Plus a new home gives him a different channel through which to push his career forward. It’s surprising he hasn’t had more of a solo career off the back of Bake Off through the BBC. Maybe Channel 4 will be the place this will happen. They have a long foodie heritage after all.
Are Love Productions greedy? Yes, of course they are. (And show me a TV production company who aren’t – this isn’t playtime, this is business). But the thing is, they always have been. It’s just the public haven’t known until now. Back in 2011, the contestants were put up in a pretty awful hotel. We were kept awake at night by other folk using the hotel as a base for drinking and partying. We were fed pretty grim food on set. (Jo and I still talk about the leftovers lasagne served one day). We were each given £100 towards the cost of ingredients for practising for the show. (And then only if we applied for it). It was all on a shoe string, yet one of the owners of the company arrived on set swinging a £1000+ handbag. There are two stories that stick in my mind…
On the first day of filming an afternoon tea was brought out. I went over to investigate, ever led by my stomach. I was informed this was for presenters, judges and crew. Not for contestants. We were given some ‘value’ crisps from a local supermarket. And secondly, lovely Jo, who won the Bake Off in 2011 was not allowed to keep her trophy. For the full story take a look at her blog here.
This blog post was never meant to be me venting on the unfair treatment of us poor, poor GBBO contestants. Goodness me, we were willing victims and really, there was no hardship endured. Many of us have done alright from it, so no sympathy is required. But this media frenzy of Love Productions being greedy is not new news, well not to the contestants. After all, business is inextricably linked to greed, though you can make some beautiful (and delicious) stuff in the process.
Lots of great recipes like this in my books, Recipes from a Normal Mum, (available on Amazon, at The Works, Waterstones, WHSmith, The Book Depository and many smaller outlets) and The Power of Frozen (available through Amazon).
Prep Time: 24 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 25 falafel
- 250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 large onion (about 130g)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 50g fresh coriander
- 200mls vegetable oil
If you have a mincing machine (for mincing meat) then simply feed everything through the machine apart from the oil. If not use a food processor with the blade attachment fitted to blitz the chickpeas, garlic, onion and coriander so that the mixture has pieces about 3mm in diameter. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Use wet hands to form about 25 falafel balls and place on a tray ready for frying. Heat the oil in a frying pan or saucepan to 180C. You need about 3 - 5cm oil to deep fry these so adjust the amount you use according to the size of your pan. Fry batches of the falafel by gently lowering them into the pan of oil. Turn over after a minute or so and fry until golden brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll. Serve immediately as these are really no where near as good when served reheated. I like mine with hummus and a lemony dressed salad in a warm pitta bread.
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