Socca with wilted spinach, slow cooked mushrooms, roasted roma tomatoes and avocado cream
In previous books I’ve referred to this, or a version of it as Farinata, as it originated in Genoa. (In The Cranks Bible, I made it with aubergines, tomatoes and black olives) but I could easily have called it La Cade or even, as in Marseilles and the Meditarranean region La Calentica. That’s because you’ll find these chickpea pancakes everywhere from Nice, where it is indeed called Socca, to Tuscany and from Monaco to Piedmont. And there are other names for it in Algeria, Morocco, Uruguay and Argentina to name a few. An 8000 year old tradition which can be on your plate in minutes. That’s quite a thought.
This is the most basic recipe calling for double the volume of water to chickpea flour and fried in a very hot wrought iron pancake pan. This gives you a pourable batter and a thin pancake that goes crispy on top and around the edges but remains pliable enough to roll, as it is served in Nice, sprinkled with sea salt and folded into a paper cone, eaten at once, piping hot.
You can also cook it in the oven and in which case, put a large tray in there and preheat to 280C. Brush the tray all over with a thin film of oil, then pour in the batter. Cook for 5 minutes, then finish off under a hot grill for 3 – 4 minutes till crisp and golden. Very carefully remove from oven, score with a knife and eat.
Socca is vegan and gluten free and makes a fab breakfast as well as simple lunch or supper. Wilted spinach, slowly cooked mushrooms and roasted tomatoes – not much could be simpler or more traditional breakfast fare - and if the vegan restrictions are not your thing, a poached egg on top is truly magical, the runny yolks merging with the Socca’s crisp edge and softer centre.
1 wrought iron pancake pan or 1 non stick frying pan
250 g chickpea flour
3 tbs fruity olive oil, plus more for frying
1 tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste
Pre heat oven to 200C
In a bowl, stream the flour and salt into the water and add the 3 tablespoons of oil, stirring all the time to avoid lumps. You can do it the other way around too, adding water to flour, the important thing is to avoid lumps.
Heat a wrought iron or non - stick frying pan till it’s very hot and smoking.
Open windows if necessary, so you don’t set off fire alarm!
Add half a teaspoon of olive oil till it’s also very hot and ladle a half - cup measure of the Socca mix tilting the pan, so it’s completely covered in a thin layer of batter.
Cook for about 30 seconds on each side.
Can be eaten as is with extra salt and pepper.
If you are making a few, pre heat your oven to 180C, have a tray in there brushed with olive oil and place the Socca into it, one after the other, with a piece of foil to cover them till you are ready to serve.
Socca breakfast toppings
200g baby spinach, washed
400g baby roma tomatoes, or other small, ripe
500g mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp soya sauce
1 clove, finely chopped garlic, optional
1 tbs brandy
Salt and pepper
1 ripe, perfectly buttery avocado, blended in a food processor with:
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs water
Salt and pepper
Place the tomatoes in a hot, preheated oven, douse in a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake till blistered and charred.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms over a medium heat letting them first weep their juices, then continuing to cook until the juices all but run dry. This could take a good 20 minutes.
Season with the soya sauce, finely chopped garlic and the brandy and keep cooking for a couple of minutes till richly coloured.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the spinach in it till completely wilted, a couple of minutes.
Squeeze of excess liquid, then season with a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper and a little finely chopped garlic if you like.
Divide mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes over the Socca and serve at once, with a drizzle of avocado cream.