Continuing my love affair with southern French food, today we're talking about socca. Socca is a Nicoise specialty, consisting of a chewy pancake made of chickpea flour, olive oil and not much else.
I had my first socca at Chez Theresa, a stall at the Nice farmers market on Cours Salaya. Theresa is an absolute legend. I had heard tales of her steadfast presence at the market over the years, cigarette dangling while brusquely hacking the socca into disheveled strips. When she runs out, queues form as we await the next batch to arrive via motorcycle, the massive pan precariously balanced behind a grizzled old driver.
I was bragging about finding Theresa and her famous socca so fast, wondering aloud when she got her nose pierced. “Nose ring?” asked my friend Charlie, who’s been scarfing Theresa’s socca since he was a kid visiting his grandma in Nice. “I don’t think she has a nose ring.” "Well, I guess she's just a super hip old lady these days," I retorted, triumphantly waving the Theresa photos on my phone in his face.
"Ummm. Amy. That is not Theresa." And does her apron say Rose?
What??? My Theresa was an imposter! A young trainee! A whippersnapper shadow of the chain-smoking old gal so beloved by Nice.
But. That socca was the real deal. Maybe Theresa’s taking a break from the daily grind, but her socca remains a legend in Nice.
I experimented with my own socca when I got back to London, then again in New York. I varied the thickness of the pancake and the overall crispy factor, but regardless of the outcome, it was always gone about a minute after it came out of the oven. This is super easy, super cheap entertaining food, perfect to make batch after batch without breaking the bank and barely a sweat.
Do Theresa proud.
Yield: Makes about two to three 10"-12" pancakes, depending on thickness
Prep Time: 5 min, plus 1 hr rest Cook Time: 10 min Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
1.5 cups / 200 g chickpea flour (also called gram flour)
1.5 cups plus 2 Tbs / 375 mL water
2 Tbs plus 4 Tbs olive oil
pinch of cumin
Mix together chickpea flour, water, 2 Tbs olive oil, pinch of cumin and 1 tsp of salt. Let sit for about 2 hours to let the flour absorb the water.
Heat the oven to broil and pre-heat an oven-safe skillet inside. Using an oven mitt to take out the skillet, pour about 1 Tbs of olive oil in the hot skillet, then ladle about 1/3 of the batter in. Bake for 5-7 minutes, til edges are crisp and the top begins to brown. Remove from the pan and repeat with remaining batter.
To serve, sprinkle each pancake with a bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, then slice into irregular strips. Serve warm.
Play with the amount of batter you use - you may prefer it thin and crisp or thicker and chewy.