Gourmet “street food” is the latest food fad to cross the waters from the US to the UK. It follows hot on the heels of pub food going gastro instead of gastric (aka deep-fried frozen scampi and chips) and farmers’ markets becoming purveyors of artisan foods.
But whereas buying food from a street stall still retains a certain element of risk on this side of the pond, food sold “al fresco” on the Continent, is as much a part of its traditional culture as its promenade cafes and “flaneurs” (leisurely walkers enjoying an evening stroll in their smartest outfits.)
Every region has its own particular type of street snack, based on locally grown products such as Malaga’s Pipitas, (salty sunflower seeds still in their husks) and Saladitos, (flat yellow beans in salted water) Napoli’s pizza slices and fresh watermelon and Nice’s crepes and socca.
Socca is a speciality of the south of France, sold hot on the streets as a take away. It is a thin pancake with a distinctive flavour made from ground chickpeas and cooked on a large flat griddle. Once you’ve tasted it you’ll go back for more!
As with a lot of Mediterranean food, Socca is similar to the Italian Panissa, also made with chickpea flour. But Panissa batter is thicker and has to set for a long time. It is then fried in rectangles and the end product resembles chips. If you’re looking to cut down on calories and not on taste, Socca is the lighter option, perfect for eating outside in the summer with a glass of wine. In the UK, chickpea flour is available in health food shops or you can use Indian Gram flour from Indian shops and most supermarkets.
Chickpeas are also good for you! They are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and are a good source of dietary fibre and protein.
Prep to plate: Prep: 10 mins (+ 30 mins resting time) Cooking time: 10 mins
Ingredients (4 portions)
- 75g chickpea flour
- 2 tbspns oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- white pepper
- 250 ml water
Optional flavourings: Chickpea flour tastes good cooked simply using the ingredients above but you can also vary the taste by adding a sprinkling of herbs or spices to the batter before cooking such as rosemary or cumin or sprinkling a little grated cheese afterwards on the cooked socca.
- Sift the chickpea flour into a bowl and add salt and pepper. Whisk in the water in a steady stream and beat well to get rid of any lumps and until you have a smooth batter . (Use an electric whisk for speedier results.)
- Leave to stand for at least half an hour. (Although with this batter the longer you let it stand, the better the flavour.)
- Heat half the oil in a large non stick frying pan and pour in the batter.
- Cook over a moderate heat for several minutes and until bubbles appear on the surface (around 3-4 minutes)
- When the socca has set, place the pan under a hot grill, ensuring you don’t burn the handle.
- Keep socca under grill until the top starts to brown.
- Remove from pan and serve immediately cut into wedges.
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