You’ve probably never heard of socca. I hadn’t until a year ago when I found it in one, then two, cookery books, both written by Francophile North Americans (David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan). It is a chickpea (gram) flour pancake from Nice which, traditionally, is served as a street snack, hot and covered in freshly ground black pepper. The Lebovitz and Greenspan recipes both require you to finish the pancakes off in the oven at high heat. I tried making them a few times and, though delicious, the last-minute-ness of shoving batter into the oven whilst my guests twiddled their thumbs didn’t really suit me so I abandoned them. Then I came across an Ottolenghi version which made it all so much easier…and now, reader, these are on repeat.
This recipe is smash-and-grab simple (make a batter, make pancakes) but what I particularly love about the results is how versatile they are. I have served socca as a snack with drinks with just black pepper, then as a starter with baked tomatoes, caramelised onions and crème fraîche then, finally, as a vegetarian main course with the same tomatoes and onions but beefed up (as it were) with some grilled halloumi and coriander. The leftover batter, quickly pancaked up, makes a great late-night-return-from-the-pub replacement for toast. If they’re not already a twinkle in some street-foodie-entrepreneur’s eye I bet they will be soon.
For about 8-10 (normal-sized) pancakes (adapted from Plenty)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
fine or freshly ground sea salt
freshly ground pepper (the fact that it is fresh is more important in this recipe than any other I have made)
2 egg whites
chickpea flour, 230g
To serve (optional)
cherry tomatoes, 300g
more olive oil
fresh thyme leaves, 2 tbsp
white wine vinegar, ½ tsp
fresh coriander leaves, a handful
How to (just the pancakes)
1. Put the water, chickpea flour, 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, ¾ teaspoon sea salt and some black pepper in a bowl. Mix together until you have a smooth batter.
2. Whisk the egg whites together then fold them into the batter.
3. When you want to make the pancakes preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan-assisted/gas 3 and line a baking sheet with some baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
4. Heat a little olive oil in a small frying pan and when really hot, tip out the excess oil then tip in a good glug of the batter to just cover the bottom. Cook over a highish heat until bubbles appear on the surface then flip and cook the other side. Once set underneath, remove from the pan and put on the baking sheet.
5. Repeat step 4 until you have made up all the batter (or don’t; it keeps marvellously in the fridge for a couple of days) then put all the cooked pancakes into the oven for another five minutes.
6. Serve hot with freshly ground pepper or one of the other suggestions below.
a) Spoon on some crème fraîche and grind black pepper over the top.
b) Serve with roasted cherry tomatoes and pepper, or roasted cherry tomatoes and crème fraîche. For the tomatoes: preheat the oven to 130°C/110°C fan-assisted/gas ½. Cut the tomatoes in half, put them in a baking tin cut side up, season, drizzle with olive oil then roast for about 25 -35 minutes until softened but not dry. (You can make these in advance and store them in a jar full of olive oil too. I’d then serve them cold rather than reheat them.)
c) Serve with the tomatoes above and some caramelised onions. For the onions: peel, top and tail the onions then slice them into thin rings. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan or sauté pan, add the onion rings, thyme leaves and some salt and pepper then cook on a high heat for a minute or two, stirring to coat the onions thoroughly in oil. Reduce the heat to low then cook until softened and golden, not dark, brown (this has taken me from 20-40 minutes so don’t plan your dinner around the timing…). Once cooked, stir in the white wine vinegar and season to taste. These are great with the tomatoes, but also on their own with the socca. You could just serve them as a pile on each plate and let people use the pancakes to scoop them up.
d) Grill some halloumi and serve it with the socca on its own, or with a handful of coriander leaves as well, or go all the way and have it with the tomatoes and onions too.