Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Flat-Out Fantastic!

Farinata di Ceci
Ligurian Chick-Pea-Flour Flatbread

Here is a little snack you can whip-together in just 10 hours! No, I have not made a mistake there- and yes I am yanking your cords just a little... but you will need a few hours time to make this simple, yet delicious flat bread... but it is well worth being patient for!

But don't you worry- there is next to no work involved- just a little patience or planning ahead so that you can stir the dough/batter together and let nature take care of the rest. You can also partially cook the batter on the stovetop, stirring it together as one would when making a polenta say, or semolina pudding... but let's make this traditional way- it's so much easier!

I prepared my batter this morning before work- to make this single, plate-sized bread, I used 2 cups of flour and 6 cups of water- that is the ratio you need to remember- 3 parts water to one part gram flour... easy! Start off by sifting the flour into a bowl, then add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and the water- cold, and little by little, stirring it in briskly with a whisk to avoid any lumps. If any lumps do form, simply whisk away and they will dissolve.

Season with salt and pepper and allow to stand for anything between 2- 12 hours, so that the gram flour can "do it's thing". It takes this amount of time for the dough / batter to get to the point that it will bind and bake into a solid mass- otherwise you will just end up with a pool of moist and sticky glue! The consistency should be that of a thick pancake batter... this is a bread that gets poured into a baking tray, not rolled into shape!

So- 12 hours later ( :-) ) I was ready to bake today! The traditional "Farinata", an ages old, traditional bread from Liguria in Italy, calls only for salt, pepper and olive oil- although it is most often prepared with a little flavoring nowadays- usually rosemary and onion- so that is what I used too this evening. I sliced up a red onion pretty finely and sautéed it in a little olive oil, at a moderate heat, for 4-5 minutes until it became soft and slightly golden, then added a generous handful of rosemary and stirred it in so that it softened up a little and also got nicely coated in olive oil... this was to be my flavorful topping for the farinata- perfect to add a sweet and savory flavor to the wholesome chick pea taste of the bread itself.

I decided to bake mine in a frying pan, but a pie or pizza dish, or even a full-layered square baking tin will also work just fine. What I did was to pour a little olive oil into the pan, spread it around evenly and got the pan nice and hot on the stove top, whilst I pre-heated to 400°F. I heated the pan for 2-3 minutes and then poured in the batter and let it begin to set. After a minute or so, as soon as it began to firm-up a little, I spread out the rosemary and onion nicely and evenly on top. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, added a very light sprinkle of olive oil on top and then popped it into the oven for 20 minutes to bake.

After 20 minutes, the flat bread was ready, but a couple of minutes more under the broiler gave it a nice, crispy, golden finish... and by the way- it smelled delicious! With the crispy, sweet onion and the savory rosemary and plenty of salt and pepper, this was already delicious as it was served hot... but I added a sprinkle of Feta cheese just to make it substantial enough to be my evening meal. This would be perfect to serve as an appetizer or an accompaniment to a salad or soup- or just a great snack for in-between! Once again, all I can say is- Try it! You'll like it!

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