Socca is a traditional Niçois dish and, as with many traditional dishes, there are a dozen different ways you can make it. You’ll most often find socca cooked street-side on fiery grills, where the resulting flatbread is coarsely chopped and served in a cone with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. In the South of France, every home cook has their own technique for cooking the chickpea batter, but the ingredients are almost always the same: chickpea flour, water and olive oil.
Not that many years ago, you might have had to venture to a specialty shop to find chickpea flour, but these days most supermarkets sell this gluten-free flour. Some manufacturers label it garbanzo bean flour, but it can be also found under the names gram or besan flour.
Chickpea flour is full of protein, but has no gluten proteins. It needs more time to hydrate than all-purpose flour, which is why most socca batters require a rest before cooking.
Socca batter can be cooked on top of the stove like other pancakes or baked in the oven, but you won’t be able to mimic the smoky flavours of a Niçois street vendor’s very hot grill without help from the grill (broiler). I’ve found a hybrid baking-grilling method results in the crispiest socca.
1.Prepare the chickpea batter by whisking together the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.
2. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8 while the batter rests, and then about five minutes before cooking slide a cast iron pan under the grill and heat on high. The pan should get a little smoky while it preheats.
3. Carefully remove the hot frying pan from the oven and add 1 tsp olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan when the pan is swirled. Pour the batter into the centre of the pan. Tilt the pan so the batter coats the entire surface of the pan, if needed.
4. Grill the socca for 5 to 8 minutes, until you see the top begin to blister and brown. The socca should still be fairly flexible in the middle but crispy on the edges. If the top is browning too quickly before the batter is fully set, move the skillet to a lower oven rack until done.
5. Use a flat spatula to work your way under the socca and ease it from the pan onto a cutting board. Slice it into wedges or squares, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with the za’atar or freshly chopped herbs ,such as thyme or rosemary.
6. Socca is pretty delicious all on its own, but you can serve it warm from the oven with some cheeses and cured olives as an easy appetizer. For a light and easy dinner, serve socca slices with a simple green salad and ice-cold rosé.
7. Socca is best eaten immediately after baking but can be refrigerated and re-toasted for up to 1 week.
1. Socca could easily stand in as a gluten-free pizza crust or as a replacement for the toast on your morning breakfast plate. I’ve even passed plain, maple-syrup drenched socca off as dessert for my beloved husband.
2. He’s also eaten it topped with fried eggs and a dusting of Parmesan cheese for a late lunch; the runny egg yolk soaking into the creamy, crispy bits .