Monday, 2 February 2015

Panning for Gold

Socca di Sedano Rapa & Ceci, con Rosmarino, Timo, Senape & Camembert
Celeriac & Chickpea Socca, with Rosemary, Thyme, Mustard & Camembert

This may not be a traditional French Socca- but then I am neither French, nor that much of a traditionalist! I love traditional foods, but love even more to re-interpret them in new and different ways- hadn't you noticed?

This is a variation on the French chickpea-flour flatbreads that get baked in the pan, just like Italian "Farinata"- and don't get me wrong! Those simple things taste delicious... but... then so does this- and maybe just a little bit more so!


My main motivation and inspiration for making this dish was the fact that I had that hunk of celeriac root sitting in my fridge, waiting to be used... and was not sure what to do with it. I love the flavor of roasted chickpeas and farinata or socca is always a treat, even if it is such a simple thing. So hey- it was a perfect opportunity to try having the best of both worlds- doing some sensible house-keeping and making an edible solution!


To make my pan-sized Socca, I used up the last 3/4's of the celeriac root (enough to fill your frying pan up to about 1" thick), 1 Spring onion, a half of a small Camembert cheese (just 50g), 1 tablespoon of coarse French mustard, some dried rosemary, some fresh thyme and about 1 coffee cupful of chickpea flour.


This is absolutely not the traditional method- it is one that I improvised, based on an Indian method of cooking with chickpea flour actually, where it is first dry-roasted in the pan before having moisture added, to enhance its flavor. It was partly that, partly recklessness and also a little bit of thick-headedness and laziness too... Works well for me!


Prep work here is simple... the celeriac needs to be peeled and finely grated and the Spring onion needs to be finely chopped. If you have a funky gadget or machine to help you with the grating- great! I don't and my arm is aching to prove it- haha! But no- this is easy stuff- and if your arm isn't tired from grating, you can get ready to use it for some stirring too!


The good news is that the grated celeriac, the flour, the rosemary, onion, a good pinch of salt and plenty of pepper and nutmeg can all go into the frying pan at the same time.


The bad news, is that when you turn on the heat and start stirring it, it is soon going to begin turning into a thick, firm paste! But fear not, keep stirring and scraping it up from the base (with a wooden spoon!!!), much as you would if you were making a choux pastry.

At this point, you will notice, despite your distress, a delicious aroma... which will be encouragement enough I hope for you to be brave and persevere!


Next, add a little water to the pan, just enough to loosen up the mixture and to dissolve the flour- which will not clump-up as it has been evenly mixed with the grated celeriac root. Just keep stirring and adding just a touch of water at a time and soon, the worst of it will be over... haha!


Before you know it, you will have a smooth mixture with the consistency of mashed potato- and at this point, you can add the cheese, cut into small pieces so that it mixes in nice and evenly, the mustard and the thyme.


Smooth out the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon, nicely and evenly, making sure to scrape in and press down the outer edges.


Absolutely not important- but hey! I had a fork and I was not afraid to use it! And it does makes things a little bit prettier- don't you think?


Into a hot oven it went- at 180°C for 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven- but basically until it is deliciously golden brown and wonderfully aromatic.


The cheese will be bubbling away when you fetch it out of the oven, which of course will mean that the interior will be soft too- so bare this in mind when you come to serve it! It will become firmer and easier to handle if you allow it to cool for a while first- but you can always scoop it up with a flat serving spoon and enjoy it piping hot too!


You don't need to add anything at all to this for it to be delicious- but you may want to add a colorful garnish before serving as I did- I am generous that way.


 Crispy outside, moist inside, filled with rich flavors of cheese, mustard, chickpeas, nutmeg and of course, the earthy star of the show celeriac- this is pretty intense stuff! I hope you enjoy it too!

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