Last post’s long and winding road to broth was probably a step too far for some of you. Although extremely gorgeous with the toasted Asian aromatics and the lightly seared vegetables, I have inserted into the post a welcome sentence, in bold: If you want to take a shortcut you may skip the first two steps and just pop everything in the pot as per a ‘normal’ stock. So, if you looked at the Really Useful Asian Broth recipe and thought “stuff this,” maybe I can persuade you to reconsider. Or at least read down to the tamarind meatball bit.
Anyway, as a way of saying sorry – and because it so shut-the-door-delicious – today’s recipe is easy as pie/pancakes. Although the main ingredient, chickpea flour, is not quite store cupboard there are other recipes you can make with it including falafels and the Italian panissa, a chick flour-based polenta. I have just bought a big head of creamy white cauliflower and fancy making these baked cauliflower pakora with it. So a small bag tucked away in your pantry shouldn’t be a problem. You may just want to keep making these crepe-like pancakes anyway as they are naturally gluten-free way of eating pancakes, and have a low-glycemic score. I am even posting a sweet edition soon, so watch out for it. The nuttiness of the cooked flour actually goes surprisingly well with sweet spicing and a little sugar.
But before you rush out to buy it, a wee tip for any chickpea flour newbies: it is rarely called chickpea flour. You will see it as besan, garbanzo flour, gram (NOT graham) flour, farina di ceci, farine de pois, but rarely as chickpea flour. I don’t know why. This tip may save you a lot of head-scratching.
People with apparently not much to do have been discussing on the Internet the difference between the European versus Indian chickpea flour. The lighter European style seems preferred for more delicate and less spicy dishes, like socca and its Ligurian doppelgänger, farinata. I used Dove’s Farm Gram Flour, which uses chana dhal. I have never bought the Italian flour, so I can’t comment on which is better, but personally I think the debate is a bit of snobby hogwash because I got the frilly edged result I was after with the cheaper chana dhal. And it also makes gorgeous fluffy pakoras. So just get what is available. If you have the luxury of choice, and you are flush from payday, knock yourself out and buy both for a taste test – not raw though as it is hideous beyond belief – and let me know which you prefer.
What isn’t up for debate is the near-foolproof nature of this friendly batter. It is pretty much just a pancake batter by another name. Like normal from-scratch pancakes the first socca may be a duffer – perhaps a bit too thick for your liking, or stuck a bit to the pan – but once the necessary adjustments are made, the second one will be fine. With or without any tweaky garnishes, I think anyone you knocked this up for would be suitably impressed. If you keep a bag of gram flour handy you could easily rustle this up for unexpected visitors while your other half dashes madly to the corner shop for a cheap bottle of room temperature rosé (very French). Lol. Or you could just make it for yourself as a well-tasty TV snack, with a bottle of beer or two to wash it down.
And so, this recipe. This is my variation on a still-popular Provencal market food. ‘Socca de Nice’ is the most enduring basic recipe, with water, chickpea flour, oil and salt magically transforming into a crispy yet moist treat. But you can get variations across the Provencal region, and even some made with other flours elsewhere in France (so I am told). Mostly it is unadorned, just served in waxed paper cones to be eaten on the hoof as you browse the seasonal produce, and sample the pungent cheeses. But some fripperies can be welcome. Paris-based food blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz seasons his lightly with a small but potent fleck of ground cumin, which I think tastes delicious – I tried his version in my quest for my own – but I prefer the more meal-compatible flavours and aromas of fresh herbs. I have also seen recipes including pinches of dry-cure Nicoise olives and grated courgettes.
Although traditionally cooked in a wood-fired oven, where the socca gets its characteristic blisters, I have played it a bit safer and certainly more conventionally by cooking mine like pancakes, in a cast iron skillet over a gas flame. This method gave me the most consistent results over innumerable testing batches. The author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman also uses a pan on the hob, but he puts his in the oven to bake, broiling the top to get it crispy. I find it easier to keep it all on the hob, and flip for a final colouring up. I like my socca crispy-ish but cook for less time if you want them softer and suitable for easy rolling around a filling (the crispier one still rolls up though). You can also use a sturdy, non-warping pie tin whacked in a blisteringly hot oven. This method is even preferred by some cooks, especially if you want yours soft. But I love the lacy edges that a stove-top skillet brings to the dish. Plus, it is easier to know when it is done. Instructions are given for both.
The only other thing to add is that it is meant to be rough and imperfect, eaten greedily with the hands, so don’t stress about tears or stuck-on bits. Those bits are the tastiest anyway. I have given a couple of ideas for topping and accompanying the socca – with a main dish to come soon -but, as with most of my recipes, just use your imagination. You may even want to go completely fusion and roll one around some tamarind meatballs!
I am linking this with the Herbs on Saturday Challenge over at Karen’s Lavender and Lovage and Vanesther’s Bangers and Mash. Also entering this in to the made-from-scratch challenge Made With Love Mondays over at Javelin and Warrior, as well as the Credit Crunch Munch challenge, hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla the author of Fab Food 4 All, a linkup that is new to me. My socca recipe is decidedly cheap, especially if you use home-grown herbs. Thyme, rosemary and oregano are at my kitchen door so this is recipe is practically free!
Have you ever eaten socca from a French market? Farinata in Italy? Do you have your own way of making socca? What foods do you make that remind you of holidays and sunshine?
Rosemary and Thyme Chickpea Pancakes (Socca de Nice)
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Shelter Song by Temples – hallucinogenic and swirly, in a good way. Good batter mixing tune!
Not quite a household name in the US or UK, socca are brilliant little crepe-like chickpea pancakes from Provence, in France. Extremely easy to make, and even easier to eat, these unfussy little street food pancakes will almost make you think you are strolling the markets of Nice. You can keep them plain with just the water, flour, oil and salt, or fancy them up with all manner of spices and herbs. You can even stuff them with curd cheese, salad or cooked sausages – spicy North African merguez, not Cumberland please.
Chickpea flour – also called besan, garbanzo, gram and farina di ceci – can be purchased at many larger supermarkets, either in the ethnic section or in the aisle catering for food intolerances; the latter because it is a naturally gluten-free flour. Any health food store or Asian market worth their salt will have it. You may think you have never had anything with chickpea flour before, but if you eat Indian food you most probably will have: the puffy golden pakoras that you can’t resist ordering are made using gram/chickpea flour.
The batter makes enough for 2 10-inch thin pancakes, or one thicker 12 inch one. Just cook them and slice up like a pizza, or tear with your hands into random pieces. The recipe is easily increased. For your first go at this perhaps double the batter to allow for any sticking disasters. You can keep the uncooked batter up to one day, covered in the fridge, but whisk up again before using. The cooked socca are incredibly filling so don’t be tempted to eat both yourself!
Influenced from recipes by David Lebovitz, the Kitchn and Beyond,fr
Optional: snips of sun-dried tomato or black olives
Sift the flour into a bowl to rid it of any lumps and stir in the herbs, salt and pepper. Make a little well and add a little less than half of the water and give it a thorough whisking. When you have a smooth batter whisk in the rest of the water and the oil. The batter should run off a spoon like single cream at this stage. Cover and leave to absorb for between 1 and 2 hours – although you could get away with 30 minutes (just don’t tell a Nicois).
Cooking Method One: When ready to make, heat one tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet * over a medium-high heat. Test the heat of the oil with a small fleck of batter. If it sizzles immediately it is ready for the batter. Pour in half the batter and carefully swirl the pan to cover the bottom evenly. Top with sun-dried tomato pieces or olive pieces, if using. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Carefully use a heat-proof spatula to loosen the pancake and flip, cooking a further 2-3 minutes. Two minutes on each side should give you a cooked but very flexible socca, while the three minute timings will give you a firmer crisper pancake, as shown. You can also start the skillet on the stovetop and finish in the oven for five minutes, or until done, broiling/grilling the top to colour it if you like. Repeat with more oil and more batter.
Cooking Method Two: Put 1 tbsp of oil in a 10-inch sturdy cake tin and heat in a very hot oven – 220C/ 450F – for one minute, then carefully remove the pan and pour in the batter, swirling to evenly coat. Pop it back in the oven for 8 minutes, then under a hot grill until it is patchily browned. Cook it for 10 minutes in the hot oven if you want a firmer cake. Repeat with more oil and more batter.
Eat immediately, with or without toppings.
Serves 4 as an appetiser, 2 as a light meal with toppings
* You could use a sturdy, good-quality non-stick skillet, or a stainless steel pan, but I haven’t tested with these. There is also some doubt about the long-term safety of most available non-stick pans when used at higher temperatures or over long periods of time. Read this article for links to more information about this topic.
Topping Ideas: crumbled and cooked spicy sausages, loads of salad, antipasti-type vegetables like sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, mushrooms, soft cheese like goats’, scrambled eggs, avocado and tomatoes, any cooked pizza toppings, just a sprinkle of rocket and sun-dried tomatoes (as shown), bought grain salad (as shown – from Waitrose), stir-fried greens like chard – the options are endless really!
69 thoughts on “Rosemary and Thyme Chickpea Pancakes (Socca de Nice)”
Yes!! My neighbor travels to Italy all the time and came back raving about fariniata! She eats gluten-free and sugar-free, so when she came over for New Years last week she made these. I could only find chickpea/favabean flour but they were delicious. I was actually going to make some today…now I have the recipe right here! I am one with the universe!
Serendipity at its finest! We must have ESP. Or perhaps our stomachs do. The flour will I’m sure be the same. Or perhaps a broad bean/fava bean mix with chickpeas. All good though. Will you report back with findings/tweaks/comments/curses? 😉
okay it sounded not so good at first..then i saw the pic and thought mmmm…im checkin this one out…thnx
Thank you for getting past the chickpea title 😀
hehe thats what made me take a peek…weird stuff gets me everytime…life is cool! thanks for sharing your life with us!
Oh yummy! I LOVE chickpea flour and everything chickpea, and eventhough I am French, I have never made socca (well I do live as far from Nice as possible without leaving the country), I really should give it a try some time! Thank you, Kellie!
You are most welcome. I dare not ask how authentic this looks to you though! I would love to know if you make this and how it went for you. Thanks 😀
This looks absolutely delicious – just what the Herbs on Saturday blog challenge was invented for. Thanks for entering!
Thank you so much Vanesther. I am pleased to be getting to know about other bloggers through contests and link-ups just like this. Food bloggers are a wonderfully supportive community.
I know! I imagined blogging to be quite a solitary affair, but it’s a brilliant way to network with other like-minded foodies…
I’ve had socca in Nice but it was about 15 years ago. I have bought bags of the flour at home but never got around to making it myself. Thanks for the detailed instructions!
Wonderful to hear from you Sarah. I’m an admirer of yours from afar. Please let me know if you get around to cracking that bag of gram flour for this recipe. I would love to know if it worked okay for you. 😀
Love this post and I am tempted to drop everything on my “to do” lis to run to the kitchen and whip up a batch, since, yes, I do have chickpea flour on hand! I’ve made socca once, but my first attempt was only “ok”-They seemed too thick to me, so I am super eager to try again with both of your cooking techniques. I even have the fresh rosemary growing in my garden 🙂 Oh, and I adore pakora too!!
That is just the kind of comment I live for – tempting someone to drop everything and cook. Brilliant comment. Thanks EA. Do let me know if you try it and if it lives up to your expectations.
Love seeing this post – I first tasted socca in Nice on a post-college backpacking across Europe jaunt and it made an impression on me even back then! I’m inspired to finally taste it again w/ this recipe.
Let me know if you try it. It’s fun to make and the herbs make the kitchen smell like a Provencal market. I hope at least!
Hi there, thank you for entering Credit Crunch Munch as I’ve a large bag of Gram flour left over from a daliance with Onion Bhaji’s so it’s great to find a new use for it. I don’t have a cast iron skillet so I’m presuming a normal non-stick frying pan would do instead?
Yes, use another pan, just a sturdy, heavy one (not aluminium). The reason I don’t specifically say it is that best results are with iron skillets because they heat more evenly, not sure how high a temp you can go with non-sticks. But I’m no expert so use what pan you have and are happy with. I do love my cast iron skillet though. Can double as a burglar deterrent too!
I just got back from Whole Foods where it is called Garbanzo Flour. No surprise being that we are in Texas! Can’t wait to try it out with this recipe! Thanks!
Happy New Year! Great to hear from you, Ann. How’s all your family, your Mom & Dad? Tell them HNY from me please. You remind me that I missed one of the most common
names for chickpeas, garbanzos. Doh! And me a Cuban food fiend too! Unforgivable. Hope you like the socca. Save some for a sweet recipe I’ll post soon.
Everyone is wonderful! Thanks for asking!
I get great joy from your blog. It is beautiful and gives me such insight into life abroad. Every happiness to you and your family in the new year.
Thanks Anne. I don’t know how much insight I can give as I just ramble about my own small world, but I’m so glad you enjoy it. Great to hear from you 😀
Love the colors of the pancakes! What a tempting winter dinner, bursting with flavor and satisfying on a cold day!
They look wonderful Kellie, I will have to give them a go 🙂
Nice dish! I heard that a new Whole Foods in NYC has a Socca bar, made to order. How fabulous is that? I think there is a food truck here that makes them as well!
How jealous am I! Socca bar AND socca food truck! I can’t imagine that my nearest Whole Foods (40 miles away in Glasgow) has a socca bar so at least it’s not a case of so near, yet so far. Lucky you with your food trucks, socca and otherwise.
In Australia i usually just reach for ‘besan flour’ available everywhere! Love it too, and I have just realized that I have not had pakoras awhile and there is some cauli in the fridge 🙂 ! Yes, this is an easy, fun recipe, but actually I loved yesterday’s – a real learning experience!!
Aw, thanks Eha. I thought I scared everyone away with my essay. I will try and stick with more user friendly recipes but I sometimes can’t help myself, and just hope readers like the mix. That’s interesting that besan is seen as a ‘normal’ flour in Australia. It’s pretty normal here in the UK because of our ethnic mix, but I think it is more niche elsewhere in Europe and in the US. More health food store territory.
I have to try these! They look so good! I am going to see about adding it to our menu at the plantation!
They might cause a bit of a stir! Wonder how you can ‘southern’ them up?…
I think they would be fine! We aren’t just serving southern foods at the plantation. We look for new tastes to temp our guests 😉
I was just teasing 😉 I didn’t really think you would. Please let me know when you make it & what you had with it. I’d love to hear if it makes the cut!
I am going to make it next week. Once I do, I will see if we can write a feature about it and link it up to you if you are okay with that.
Of course! That would be great. I can’t wait to see what you do with it 🙂
I am going to have to make this…I am going to have to make it soon!
Isn’t dosai also made with gram flour? They are, of course, much bigger, and filled with some kind of veggie or potato delight (like a crepe), but these socca de nice seem similar. I’ve never bought this kind of flour and wouldn’t have known what to do with it if I had! Perhaps I should I pick up a small bag at the grocer and give it a shot. Looks easy and scrumptious. Our pancakes will be the whole wheat, no egg or dairy with fresh blueberries variety this morning. (In just a few weeks time, we’ll be picking our own from our two bushes out back!)
PS — Incidentally, I just watched Bittman’s 2008 TED Talk for the first time this week. WOW. I am about to post a link to it on the GreensForGood blog because it is perhaps the most thoughtful and efficient 20-minute talk on the ethics of eating. Five years is not too late, right? LOL Neat that I should see his name here in your blog at roughly the same time, though I’d never heard of him before until now. 🙂
Is that a talk about food waste? Bittman is a brilliant US food writer & journalist, but living in the UK I sometimes forget to go and read him. But always glad when I do. I kept seeing trendy foodie folk (ugh) namecheck him and wondered what the fuss was about. Love him.As for the dosa, it is VERY similar but usually involves fermentation and usually uses a lentil flour (urad dal) and a specific rice or rice flour. I have made simple, nonfermented versions (completely inauthentic but tasty nonetheless) with rice flour and some ground dry urad dal. Here is a great link with all the do’s and don’ts of dosa making from veggie belly: http://www.veggiebelly.com/2011/03/perfect-dosa-recipe.html
I like it that you took the batter of pakoras and made a chickpea pancake with it. You also so beautifully decorated it with fresh ingredients.
Thank you. Now you have me thinking about pakoras….
What an absolutely fabulous recipe and a super entry for herbs on Saturday too! I love food like that Kellie, and your photos are lovely too! Karen
Wow Kellie, thanks for this! I’ve had versions of this before from provencal restaurants and from a pizza joint in Italy, also I believe it was in the vegetarian panini offered to us on the last day of FBC. I’ve never made it before but have always wanted to, so I’m thrilled that you’ve posted a recipe here! I thought you had trouble with chickpeas though? Do you find chickpea flour more easy to digest than chickpeas themselves?
Well remembered, Katie. I do indeed have much trouble with chickpeas. I have less trouble with good quality flour, but I still have to really limit myself. Sadly I could only ever just sample these cakes (a slice from each batch I tested), not make a meal of them. But that was just a bonus for my family! I used to be able to eat chickpeas just fine and then one day I wasn’t. I do find that cooking my own beans and rinsing them thoroughly after initial soaking, and a really good long rinse after cooking does help a bit. Or at least I don’t get the side effects confused with appendicitis!
Ooh wonderful stuff. I bought some gram flour a while back and keep forgetting to use it, but I am inspired enough by these pancakes to now get it out of the cupboard. Your cauliflower baked pakoras sound interesting too.
I wish I could take credit for the pakoras but they aren’t mine! I will be doing my own version soon though – a nice and spicy one! Please let me know if you pull out that flour bag and make these 😀
What a great recipe. If I could make pancakes every day my kids would love me and I am pretty sure they would love these too. I love the crisp edges, definitely the best bit for me and i would love to eat them alongside a chunky soup or tagine with lots of sauce to dip the socca into. Delicious!
Crispy edges rock! I am posting a shakuska recipe next – perfect dipping food 😀
The Internet is a weird and wonderful place. This morning, I had never heard of socca, and yours is the second recipe for it I’ve seen today. I’m intrigued by your description – the mix of nuttiness and herb. When I read the other recipe, my thought was that it would compliment a tagine or Ethiopian curry nicely, but that might just hide those qualities. Definitely something I’ll be trying, as the universe seems set on throwing it in my path today.
I’m making these tonight – dipping into cauliflower cheese. Been meaning to make for the longest time.
I’m glad I triggered your memory, Sally. I would have never thought to have these with cauliflower cheese. Hope you like them!
What a cool recipe and I just learned so much about chickpea flour. I’m very familiar with the beans, but I’ve never used the flour and I don’t think I would have ever thought to look for gram flour… Thanks so much for sharing the recipe with Made with Love Mondays – love the uniqueness of this recipe and welcome to the series!
I am glad to have found Made With Love Mondays, and thank for accepting my recipe. I saw you on Lavender and Lovage (Karen knows everyone!) and thought it sounded very like my approach to food and cooking. Glad you found me on Twitter too! Thanks so much for your kind comment.
made these last night and it was my second attempt at these in general, they turned out great, I popped a chickpea curry on the side, and a raita..MMMMMM
Thanks so much for the feedback. Nothing please me more than hearing that one of my recipe works for others too. And the curry sounds a GREAT companion for socca 😀
What a find! My father in law is Tuscan and makes farinata and I’ve tried it recently and it was an epic failure. Will give this one a shot because I’m keen to have another chance to eat it! Thanks heaps!
Hi Kellie, what a lovely blog you have. I am a celiac so there is lots for me to devour. I I like your pics and information. I have a gluten free blog and we share a lot of food thoughts and tastes 🙂
I have collected a nice big pile of recipes for socca and pudla and all kinds of vegan versions of the two but have never once tried to make them. I think that I might have to do so this weekend when we have a bit of spare time from all of the fence making, planting and seed starting. Cheers for the delicious share that might just be my saviour over this coming busy season 🙂
Do. The socca are so easy to make (the first one is usually for the bin though) and will accommodate any manner of filling quite nicely. Best wishes with the fence making, planting and seed starting. We are winding down all of that, although I have a new crop of winter greens that will do for gardening urges for awhile.
Can’t wait to see how you use them 🙂