Tasty Tuesday

Free to Feed · Felafel

Hamed Allahyari and Julia Busuttil Nishimura of Free to Feed
Tuesday 2nd August 2016

It’s a new month, which means we welcome a new Tasty Tuesday contributor, or in this case, two. We’re pretty excited to share the recipes of Hamed Allahyari of Free to Feed and Julia Busuttil Nishimura of OSTRO.

Free to Feed is a not-for-profit cooking class and workshop program hosted by asylum seekers and refugees. The project was founded by young Melbourne husband and wife team Loretta and Daniel Bolotin, in order to provide meaningful employment to asylum seekers and refugees, and share their vibrant culture with the people of Melbourne. We’re so in awe of Loretta and Daniel’s vision and incredible work bringing Free to Feed to life!

Born in Tehran, and having owned a cafe in his hometown, Hamed dreams of opening another in Melbourne one day, and is passionate about Persian cuisine. Together with Julia, Hamed has been bringing some of his favourite recipes to life in his cooking classes over at Free to Feed, along with other great classes by a host of teachers from diverse backgrounds. Today the pair teach us how to make the tastiest homemade felafel ever (not kidding – it’s so simple but SO good).

For the last few months I (Julia) have had the absolute privilege of sharing my kitchen with Hamed Allahyari, as we cook and reimagine his favourite Persian dishes, working together to put a twist on some of the classics. Having owned his own cafe in Tehran, Hamed has dreams of opening a Persian eatery in Melbourne, which will be AMAZINGLY delicious! He has introduced me to new ingredients and taught me how to spot good saffron, and of course the importance of rosewater!

We’ve shared many stories, laughed, cried (me), and bonded over our love of cooking. To me, food is a pretty powerful thing and I feel super lucky to have this opportunity to cook with Hamed and be involved in Free to Feed. This month we will be sharing some of the recipes we’ve worked together to create for Free to Feed, a pop-up cooking school with all classes taught by exceptional cooks from the refugee and asylum seeker community.  In each class you can learn to cook authentic, traditional dishes from your instructor’s home country.

First up, is the felafel. Felafel is a street food staple in Tehran, where Hamed grew up. Although found across the Middle East, Iranian felafel are made from very few ingredients, and can be made in a matter of minutes (just don’t forget to soak the chickpeas as there is definitely no short cut)! We added coriander to these felafel (not strictly traditional according to Hamed!)  but he cites the importance of the garlic and seasoning to ensure the felafel pack a punch. In fact, Hamed usually adds a whole tablespoon each of pepper and salt, but feel free to season the mixture to suit your taste. The felafel can be eaten on their own or with flat bread and pickles, for a more substantial meal.

Tasty Tuesday shoots are generously supported by The Establishment Studios.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 300g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 small red capsicum, diced
  • 1 small bunch coriander, finely chopped
  • Neutral oil, such as vegetable, for deep frying

To serve (optional)

  • Pickled vegetables (available from most Middle Eastern grocers)
  • Flatbread
  • Dip of your choice


After the chickpeas have been soaking overnight, drain them and place in a food processor with the garlic and capsicum. Blitz until the mixture becomes like fine breadcrumbs and resembles a coarse paste. The mixture should feel a little squishy in your hands and will come together when pressed into a ball.

Transfer to a bowl and add the coriander. Season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Stir to combine and check again for seasoning.

Fill a deep fryer or large pot with vegetable oil and heat to 180C.

Meanwhile, roll golf ball-sized pieces of the felafel mixture with your hands or use a felafel-making tool.

When the oil is at the right temperature, fry in batches until deep golden, draining the cooked felafel on absorbent paper.

Serve immediately with pickled vegetables.

Hamed Allahyari of Free to Feed,  Julia Busuttil Nishimura of OSTRO and Loretta Bolotin, co-founder of Free to Feed. Location: Firecracker HQ in Thornbury. Photo – Eve Wilson. Assistant styling – Natalie Turnbull.

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