Falafel in pitta pockets

When watercress is in season in spring is the best time to make this delicious and healthy light meal




  • 225g/8oz dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 100g watercress, roughly chopped
  • Juice half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
  • 100g watercress
  • 150g Greek style yogurt
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 4 wholemeal pitta breads


  • Preheat the oven to 220C/Fan 200C/Gas Mark 6.
  • Drain the chickpeas and place in a food processor with the tahini, salt, baking powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic, 100g watercress and lemon juice.
  • Whizz until very finely chopped but not puréed. If you have time, set the mixture aside for a couple of hours, so the flavours can mingle, but it's not imperative.
  • Place a large roasting tin in the oven to heat up. Using a wet hand, shape the mixture into 16 balls, then flatten slightly into patties.
  • Add the oil to the roasting tin, return to the oven for 2 minutes, then carefully add the falafel, tossing to coat in hot oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once until crisp and golden.
  • Whilst they cook, roughly chop half the remaining watercress and stir it into the yogurt with the garlic and seasoning to taste.
  • Lightly toast the pittas on each side, cut each in half and open up each half to make a pocket. Fill the pitta pockets with falafel, remaining watercress and the yogurt sauce. Serve whilst warm.

Cook's tip

Tahini is a sesame seed paste used widely in Middle Eastern cookery. It adds a savoury, nutty flavour to falafel and is available from health food stores and large supermarkets.

Nutrition information

Apples, broccoli and tomatoes are often cited as 'super' fruit and vegetables, but gram for gram, watercress is a better source of vitamins C, B1, B6, K and E, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Only raw broccoli has more vitamin C and magnesium, but it is more often eaten cooked in this country.

Watercress is brimming with folate, beta-carotene and vitamin A, which are important antioxidants meaning that they can mop up potentially damaging free radicals. These nutrients are also important for healthy skin and eyes. Watercress contains more than four times the amount of beta-carotene than other well-known 'super' foods.

Watercress is recognised as a source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are types of carotenoids that may be important for eye health.

Quercetin, a type of flavonoid and a powerful antioxidant, is also found in greater quantities in watercress than broccoli and tomatoes. New research shows that watercress is emerging as a potentially important player in the field of cancer prevention.

Our thanks to I'm in season for permission to use this recipe

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