I discovered the most amazing dish the other day; it’s called socca. A traditional delight hailing from the south of France (Nice, to be exact), socca is a chickpea flour pancake, or flatbread, often served informally as street food.
Chickpea flour, sometimes called gram flour, garbanzo flour, or besan, can be found in ethnic grocery stores or health food shops. It is used often in Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cuisines, and of course French and Italian specialties, respectively. In fact, Italians make a very similar version of socca, called "farinata," or "made of flour."
So what’s the big deal? Socca is simply delicious. It boggles my mind how such a few ingredients can come together to make an impressive and insanely tasty treat.
Gluten-free, vegan, and full of fiber, socca is an excellent alternative to white flour tortillas, pizza dough, crepes, or flatbreads. Socca is also incredibly versatile! I made a delicious sandwich by folding my socca in half and filling the inside with my favorite ingredients. I also made a rustic pizza by topping the cooked pancake with avocado, olives, spring lettuce, a drizzle of olive oil, and crushed chilies. Heaven.
If you don’t have chickpea flour in your cupboard, you can easily make it using dried chickpeas and your blender. See my article here.
Chickpeas: awesome support for your digestion!
Between 65 to 75 percent of the fiber found in garbanzo beans is insoluble, which means it remains undigested all the way down to the final segment of your large intestine. Recent studies show that bacteria in the colon can metabolize garbanzo bean fiber and produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetic, propionic, and butyric acids. These SCFAs provide fuel to the cells that line your intestinal wall, lowering your risk of colon problems, including cancer.
If you have the time and the foresight, I highly suggest mixing your socca batter well in advance to aid digestion. Much like soaking beans and legumes before cooking, soaking the flour (especially if it is raw) will undoubtedly help your body break down the complex starches in ground chickpeas, and will aid in mineral absorption. I mixed mine the night before I was planning to cook them. The recipes I have seen suggest at least 30 minutes, but give the batter as much time as you can; your body will thank you!
If you like to do things on the fly, make sure to purchase chickpea flour that has been milled from cooked chickpeas.
After cruising the Internet and flipping through some cookbooks, I discovered that socca is sometimes made with the addition of rosemary and onions. That got me thinking: there must be hundreds of ways to prepare this little pancake! You could make countless savory versions with herbs and spices, infused oils, vegetables, or garlic. How about a sweet version for breakfast or dessert? Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves would be incredible. Add sliced fruit and a drizzle of raw honey and you’ve got a delicious, gluten-free crepe to gobble.
Let me know how your socca experiments work out. I am so excited to share this chickpea pancake, and I look forward to the many variations to come out of my own oven.
Be well. In light,
Makes about three seven-inch soccas.
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Ghee or coconut oil, for pan
1. In a large bowl, sift chickpea flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk in warm water and olive oil. Let sit, covered, for as many hours as possible (making this before you leave the house in the morning is perfect for making socca for dinner), but at least 30 minutes.
2. Place heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet in oven and preheat to 450 F.
3. Remove skillet from oven. Add a knob of ghee or coconut oil to the hot pan, and pour batter in a steady stream until it reaches the edges of the pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pancake is firm and the edges are set.
4. At this point, you can flip the socca, or set it a few inches below your broiler for a couple minutes, just long enough for it to brown. Cut into wedges and serve hot, with toppings of your choice.
Sarah Britton is a holistic nutritionist, vegetarian chef, and the creator of the award-winning blog My New Roots. Sarah is currently a chef at three organic restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she has earned praise for her creative and adventurous recipes. A certified nutritional practitioner, she is also the founder of New Roots Holistic Nutrition, where she educates others to be an active participant in their own health and healing.