Spiced Garlic Farinata with 2 Alternative Toppings
Farinata, socca, torta di ceci, or cecina is a type of thin, unleavened pancake or crêpe of chickpea flour (therefore gluten-free) originating in Genoa and later a typical food of the Ligurian Sea coast, from Nice to the Isle of Elba, changing its name depending where on the coast it is being cooked.
It is essentially a chickpea, water and olive oil mixture and depending on location may be plain or cooked with rosemary, which sounds delightfully fragrant. However, I stumbled across Yotam Ottolenghi’s take on farinata using garlic and sumac, which somehow hit the spot. I have a weakness for sumac and is easily available in the Gulf and the Middle-East.
Flatbreads (both mostly unleavened, though some slightly leavened) have been part of most cultures and like our farinata have taken on several close identities as they have travelled up and down coastlines and criss-crossed seas. Flatbreads can be thin, only a few millimetres thick to a couple of centimetres and can contain many fruits, vegetables and herbs, besides the flour medium. The Mediterranean, being a particular case in point that the actual origin of various dishes can frequently be lost in time. The author speculates that even the ‘regionality’ of dishes can have as much to do with individual kitchens as with the differences between two points on a map.
200g chickpea flour
60ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp sumac
1 tsp nigella (black seed/ Habat al-Baraka – Arabic name) seeds
1⁄4 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
Flaky sea salt
*For the Whipped Bean Topping
1 x 400g tin cooked cannelloni or butterbeans, drained and rinsed (240g drained weight)
100g cream cheese
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus two tsp extra to finish
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
10g 1 small pickled lemon, blitzed
Put all the whipped bean ingredients in a food processor with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt after draining and rinsing the beans. Blitz for a minute or two, until smooth and aerated, then spoon into a small bowl and drizzle two teaspoons of olive oil on top. You will want the best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can get.
*For Avocado and Hummus topping
1 x 400g can of Chickpeas
2 Avocados - pitted
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Paprika
½ tsp Cumin
½ Garlic Powder
2 tbsp grated Mozzarella
1 tbsp Tahina
½ pkt Yoghurt
Drain and rinse the tinned chickpeas. Mix all ingredients together in a food processor and blend, saving half the lemon juice and some salt and pepper, except the avocados. Cut and stone the avocados in half and add salt, pepper and lemon to the avocado flesh. Mash the avocado and thoroughly blend with the chickpea mixture. Serve.
Depending on taste more lemon juice can be added as with levels of salt, pepper and paprika.
Put the chickpea flour in a large bowl, slowly whisk in 450ml cold water, until well combined, then leave to rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 240C/465F.
Heat the oil for the farinata in a large, cast-iron skillet (or heavy-based, ovenproof frying pan) on a medium-high flame. Once hot, fry the garlic for a minute or two, until it starts to sizzle but doesn’t take on any colour, then transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, and stir in the sumac, nigella and chilli.
Spoon two tablespoons of the garlicky oil from the pan and a teaspoon of salt into the chickpea batter, and whisk well. Tip another tablespoon of garlic oil from the pan into a small bowl, leaving just one tablespoon’s worth in the pan.
Return the pan to a high heat and, when the oil starts to smoke, pour in half the batter and swirl the pan around so it settles in an even layer. Cook for 30 seconds, until the batter starts to bubble, then sprinkle over half the garlic mix. Transfer to the oven for 10 minutes, until the bread is cooked through and golden brown, then transfer the farinata to a large plate. Keep warm while you repeat with the remaining batter and garlic oil.
Cut the hot farinatas into wedges and serve warm with the topping(s) on the side for spreading.