Ah, socca. How I’ve missed you. I’ve never quite been able to get out of my head the memories of repeatedly burning my tongue and fingertips on fresh-from-the-fire socca in Nice (it was too hot, but I couldn’t stop eating). That was in February 2010, during Carnaval, and I wandered my way through the cobblestone allies of the Vielle Ville and picked pieces of smoky-hot, crispy and flaky socca out of a paper funnel.
Ever since, I’ve thought about making socca at home but alas, the primary ingredient was never available. Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour is admittedly difficult to find outside the Mediterranean region, though it can be found in some Arabic shops, in Indian grocery stores (as besan flour), and in certain organic supermarkets.
As you’ll see if you visit Nice, true socca du marché is cooked over a wood fire in batches of giant circumference, with much scorching and blistering and rustic smoky flavors. But, we can certainly do a close approximation at home (David Lebovitz does it all the time; the following recipe is his). To imitate the smoky tones of cast iron over a blazing fire, we add a touch of cumin to the batter. Above all else, don’t be shy with the pepper–there must be freshly ground black pepper must be in excess, and the more coarsely cracked the better, in my opinion.
You’ll know you’ve made the socca right when you scrape it out of the pan with a spatula and it flakes apart in big, crumbly pieces. This is street food, and as such, fingers and mess are the only things required to eat.
makes about three 10-inch (23cm) pancakes
from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
- 1 cup (130g) chickpea flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (280ml) water
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- freshly-ground black pepper, plus additional sea salt and olive oil for serving
- Mix together the flour, water, salt, cumin, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let batter rest at least 2 hours, covered, at room temperature.
- To cook, heat the broiler in your oven. Oil a 9- or 10-inch (23cm) cast-iron pan or baking dish with the remaining olive oil and heat the pan in the oven.
- Once the pan and the oven are blazing-hot, pour enough batter into the pan to cover the bottom, swirl it around, then pop it back in the oven.
- Bake until the socca is firm and beginning to blister and burn. The exact time will depend on your broiler (for me it took 5-6 minutes).
- Slide the socca out of the pan onto a cutting board, slice into pieces, then shower it with coarse salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Cook the remaining socca batter the same way, adding a touch more oil to the pan between each one.