Friday, 1 August 2014

Worth Every Gram of It!

Farinata con Cippolotti e Semi di Finocchio & Peperonata
Farinata with Spring Onions and Fennel Seed & Peperonata

I love good food- I am sure most of us do! But there is one thing I have to say to you all and that is that if you think you need to spend a lot of money to be able to eat good food... I think you are going about it wrong!

This dish here cost me less than 3 Euro to make and the yield was enough for 2 good portions as you can see. Oh- and you can trust me that is was really delicious! Every bit as good as it looks... and then some!

Farinata is a great, ages old, traditional, simple and delicious "flat bread" from Liguria, made of chickpea or "gram" flour. It is nutty, rustic and delicious and can be flavored in any number of ways... this evening I decided to add Spring onion and fennel seed to mine.

My whole meal was made using 2 cups of gram flour, 3 bell peppers, 3 Spring onions and a little parsley. Apart from 1 teaspoon or so of fennel seed, a little olive oil, salt and pepper and a little pinch of sugar- that was it!

This is a light and delicious but satisfying dish that is perfect for a hot, Summer day or evening- or you could even serve it in small portions as an appetizer for a party... or in any number of other ways as a side... anything you do with it will turn out great!

To prepare the dough, or much rather batter for the farinata, all you need to do is to add water to the gram flour in a bowl and keep stirring in the flour, from the outside-in. Start off by pouring in 1 cup of warm water into 2 cups of flour until it is all incorporated, then add more, a little at a time, until it has the consistency of a rich, creamy yogurt. Dont worry about any lumps- just keep stirring away and they will disappear all by themselves.

Soon enough, the gram flour batter is nice and smooth... and just needs to be left to rest for at least an hour, or better still 2... and in the meantime we can prepare the peperonata.

The peperonata requires only 1 step of preparation... the bell peppers simply need to be cut into nice, thin strips- easy!


Most recipes call for frying the peppers, but I like to add them to my frying pan with just enough water to cover the base, add just a pinch of salt but plenty of pepper, bring the water to the boil, turn it down to a gentle simmer and cook on a low flame for 25 minutes with the lid on.

I add a nice drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sugar at the end, stir everything through nicely and let them soften, caramelize gently and take on that lovely fresh hint of olive flavor- then set them to one side to cool until the farinata is done. This is something that tastes much better lukewarm or cold than piping hot- especially on such a humid day!

Now the peppers are ready... back to that flat bread!

To the batter, I added the Spring onions, finely chopped, the handful of parsley also finely chopped, a teaspoon of fennel seed, a little salt and pepper... and a minute or two of stirring to get everything nicely mixed together.

I then turned on the oven to around 180 C to get it ready and grabbed my frying pan to get the party started!

Here is the batter, nice and smooth- well blended together and ready to go!

I poured the batter into my non stick pan with just a little olive oil and let it cook on the stove top at the maximum heat for 2-3 minutes, just to get the base set and to start the onions and fennel seeds getting hot and flavorful before transferring it to the oven. It is ready to make that move when little air-bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the farinata... can you see them?

It then bakes for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown and then comes out of the oven, to get a very light brush with olive oil and a sprinkle of slightly coarser sea salt... then back in it goes for a final 4-5 minutes under the broiler, until it becomes a lovely golden brown color... mmmm!

The aroma of fresh, but roasted chickpeas and fennel seed is so awesome when you cut into this... its amazing!

I know I could have baked the peppers right on top of the farinata and made this into one single thing, but this seemed much more appealing to me this evening at least... and I still have that other option open for the future, haha! Because I am sure I will be making this again!

I love the rich, sweet flavor that the peppers develop when cooked this way- and especially love the fact that I did not have to drench them in olive oil to get them to be this way... just look at how nice and glossy and delicious they are! And the flavor of the olive oil is much richer as it did not get diminished through over-cooking... this is a really good thing! Raw olive oil is always best of all anyway!


The farinata is slightly crispy on the outside- it is easily firm enough to pick up with your hands to eat, but it remains nice and moist and tasting deliciously of chickpeas on the inside too- yummy!

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