Thursday, 12 April 2012

Socca Star!

Funghi "Provenzale" con Formaggio di Capra sulla Frittella Speziata di Farina di Ceci
Mushrooms Provencale with Goat Cheese on Spicy Gram Flour Pancake

It is amazing what incredible information you can find on the internet. For example that there is a tradition of making flat breads and pancakes out of chick-pea, or gram flour in many countries. India- sure, Sicily with it's thicker, deep-fried "panelle", fair enough, the Middle East- ok... but France? Indeed yes!

In France, this kind of unleavened pancake or bread, made of gram flour has a tradition all of it's own. Socca, as I discovered today, is popular in and around Nimes... too bad that I never saw it, nor heard any mention of it on the 2 trips I have made out there! But that is nothing that can't be set straight- even from the comfort of my own home!

Apparently, the Southern French "Socca", is flavored simply with salt, pepper and cumin seed. And it is definitely very delicious- Sicilian "Panelle" after all, are seasoned ONLY with salt and pepper and taste great when deep fried. But no- I am all for flavor, adventure and SPICE. So here is my version! Grab hold of your taste buds!

I stirred 1 cup of lukewarm water into 2 cups of gram flour. I stirred it with a whisk until there were no lumps and then added 1 tablespoon of Raz al Hanout Rouge and 1 teaspoon of Tandoori spice, as well as 1 teaspoon of cumin, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. I stirred this all in thoroughly and let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, I prepared mushrooms. I never wash mushrooms- there is nothing worse than having soggy, waterlogged mushrooms- and they are going to soak up water if you hold them under the tap or worse still, plunge them into a bowl. Why go and do that, when cleaning them more sensibly is so simple? Simply take a small, sharp knife, and from the underneath, grab the edge of the mushroom, near the stem, and peel away the top layer of skin... you will see that it is very easy to do. Peel away the outer surface of the mushroom all the way around and voila! A spotlessly clean and dry mushroom, ready to sautée!

But first things first- let's get one frying pan nice and hot, add a very light drizzle of olive oil and pour in the gram flour pancake mix. Just let it sit at a moderate heat for 5-6 minutes, until the top surface begins to dry out- this means it should be firm enough to flip over. Once you have done that, turn up the heat on another burner really high, get another frying pan on there- and get ready to give those mushrooms the treatment!

In this case, the treatment means sautéeing with a little crushed garlic, some clarified butter and olive oil, Herbs de Provence, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. Keep the heat high and keep the mushrooms moving! After 2-3 minutes, add some finely sliced Spring onion and finely chopped parsley and chives. Grate a little nutmeg onto them and after a further 2-3 minutes, the mushrooms should be ready- and so should the hot and spicy socca!

Serve the mushrooms on top of the socca, with some crumbled goat cheese, a generous pinch of chili flakes, a squeeze of lemon juice and a final light drizzle of olive oil... and enjoy! What a wonderful vegetarian meal! I am sometimes amaze even myself!

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