Socca is good but football is better.
Worst joke of all time. Seriously, sometimes I shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard. But bad jokes aside, socca really IS the best. Savoury fragrant wedges of flatbread smothered in hummus, aubergine dip or tirokafteri….It doesn’t last long in our house. Which is just as well as it doesn’t keep that well. Even when my kids were going through the fussiest eating phase ever, they would eat socca.
Which basically meant that they were just eating chickpeas on top of chickpeas.
Oh well, I consoled myself, there were worst things they could have been obsessed about eating….Also called Farinata, which originates from Genoa and has a funny-slightly-unbelievable origin story of chickpea flour being roasted on a shield by Roman soldiers, is best served piping hot, and word has it that it’s a popular street snack in Nice, accompanied by a cool glass of rosé wine.
I discovered socca by chance, about six years ago. We had just been told my son was allergic to soy, dairy and eggs. As someone who had been vegan for several years in Spain, I immediately understood the difficulties he would face due to poor allergen labelling, a lack of allergy-friendly products, and the amount of milk and soy products randomly added to such things as bread (whey powder what ARE you for?).
I then began making most of our bread, especially soda bread, and researching allergy-friendly recipes, which led me to socca. The original recipe I read raved about authentic socca from Nice, France, lightly charred and served with just good olive oil. Originally I would divide the batter below into two, pop it in already hot and oiled pan, and grill it , resulting in two thick socca flat-breads slightly charred on either side.
Enter our move to India. And a lack of…an oven. I still have nightmares about not having an oven, the madness of trying to use the oven part of your “supposed”microwave oven. So although tasty, the previous oven-centric method presented me with an undeniable problem.
With no oven, we therefore had no grill. But instead of crying my little vegetarian heart out, I noticed a similar Indian recipe for a chickpea-flour based flatbread called cheela, which was made in the pan. Enter experimentation time, and I played around with it, and successfully mustered up a version which my family could live with.
(I still caved in and bought a gigantic oven toaster grill a few months later, unable to face a baking-free future…)
Cooking socca in the pan results in thin crepe-like flat-breads, that I much prefer to the thicker grilled versions. However I do still occasionally grill thicker versions of it to use as a quick and tasty pizza base (yummm….with rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, olives, goat’s cheese if you”re not vegan or allergic….), particularly for my son. If you grill it, keep in mind that:
- Your non-stick baking pan or dish must be REALLY non-stick, just one scratch and socca will cling on to it for dear life. Oil it well and make sure the oil is already really hot when you quickly pour in the socca base liquid.
- YOU MUST NOT ATTEMPT TO TURN THE SOCCA IF IT IS STICKING.
Sorry for shouting, but really, don’t do it! Socca will not “unstick”until it’s done, so if the bottom is sticking and the top is getting too brown, then the grill is turned up too high or it’s too close to the heat source. And trying to shove a spatula under it’s petulant bottom will just result in broken half-cooked socca.
Now go socca it to them! (Last bad pun, I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist….)
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil, .5 reserved for pan
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ½ tsp chopped dried rosemary
- Lots of fresh cracked black pepper
- ½ tbsp lemon juice just before cooking
- Measure the chickpea flour into a bowl and slowly whisk the water in, making sure it is well incorporated before adding more, in order to avoid lumps.
- Add in 1 tablespoon of the oil, the salt, baking soda, garlic, rosemary and black pepper, and whisk again.
- Leave aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a non stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. When it is hot, add a little bit of the reserved tablespoon of oil (I use a silicone pastry brush to quickly distribute it over the pan, I find that way I need less oil).
- Whisk the chickpea batter and fill a scant 2/3rd measuring cup with it. Quickly pour into the pan, tilting the pan until the batter is uniformly distributed. Leave to cook.
- I usually cook my socca for 2.5 minutes to 3 minutes on the first side. When you see the edges setting and pulling away from the edge of the pan, as well as little holes from air bubbles forming in the middle of the pancake, slide a spatula underneath the socca and flip. If it’s not brown enough for you, flip it back for another minute more. If it's sticking to the pan, it's not done enough yet, wait 30 seconds - 1 minute before attempting to flip it again.
- Leave to cook for 2 - 2.5 minutes on the reverse side and check if done enough (some spots should be dark brown).
- Remove to a plate, oil the pan again, and repeat with the rest of the batter. Will make about three socca pancakes. I like to slice into wedges like a pizza to serve. Does not reheat super well, if you must reheat it then do so in the oven at 160 for ten minutes, uncovered so it crisps up again.