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Courgette and chickpea ‘meatballs’ in spicy tomato sauce

Main Vegetarian
Serves 4
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min

Our love of falafel set me on a journey that led me to these chickpea 'meatballs', which are soft, pillowy and vibrant green inside. Serve with couscous or rice and a spoon of Greek yoghurt.


400g courgette, coarsely grated (about 2-3 courgettes)
salt and black pepper
105ml olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
500g plum tomatoes (about 5-6), coarsely grated and skins discarded (400g net weight)
1½ tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1½ tsp caster sugar
150g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water and ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra leaves to garnish
4 tbsp roughly chopped coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish
¾ tsp baking powder
2 eggs
50g panko breadcrumbs (or other dry breadcrumbs)


  1. Put the courgettes into a sieve set over a bowl, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt, toss, then leave to drain for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a large saute pan with a lid, heat two tablespoons of oil on a medium-high flame. Cook the garlic until lightly browned – about 90 seconds – then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, two teaspoons each of the cumin and coriander, the cinnamon, the chilli flakes, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper. Cook, stirring, for seven minutes, until thickened. Add 700ml of water and the sugar, cook for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat while you make the koftas.
  3. Drain the chickpeas, then transfer to a food processor with the onion, herbs and remaining teaspoon each of cumin and coriander. Pulse a few times, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go, until you have a coarse paste (don’t take it as far as a smooth puree). Transfer to a bowl and add the baking powder, eggs, panko, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper.
  4. Tip the courgettes into a clean tea towel and wring over the sink to extract as much liquid as possible. Add to the chickpea mix and combine, then shape into 15 golfball-size balls weighing roughly 50g each.
  5. Put four tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, then fry the balls in two batches, turning them occasionally, until browned all over – about four minutes a batch.
  6. Bring the sauce back to a simmer on a medium-high heat, gently lower in the balls, cover the pan and turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced slightly and the balls are cooked through. Top with the picked herbs, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve straight from the pan.