Socca (Chickpea Flour Pancakes)

July 8, 2013

Socca

I can’t quite express how addictive and wonderful I find socca to be. The first time I tried it I was home alone on a sunny Sunday afternoon and kept saying out loud to no-one at all, “oh my god, oh my GOD” as I took greedy bites. So if you’re wondering just how tasty and moreish socca is, now you know. It is talk-out-loud-to-yourself good.

In my opinion it’s best eaten straight from the cutting board that you use to slice it into squares. Just drizzle a generous amount of good olive oil, sea salt, and crushed black pepper on top and dig in with your fingers. That’s really all you need and I dare say, the first time you make it, that is exactly how you should experience it. Those flavours alone are plenty and allow you to taste the wonderfully nutty socca throughout. You’ll have bites that are crisp as crackers where the socca has blistered and begun to burn, and bites that are soft and pancake-y, and each bite is likely to make you fall in love anew.

Socca with Black Pepper

I first heard of socca from Stephanie Meyer on her blog Fresh Tart, which is full of imaginative, beautiful, gluten-free recipes. Socca is a thin unleavened pancake-type deal made very simply with chickpea flour, water, and olive oil.

It’s a specialty of Southeast France, particularly in and around the city of Nice, which was news to me because despite spending summers there in my teens I never came across socca. I think I need to go back and look harder. Apparently in that neck of the woods it’s formed into a flat cake and baked in an oven, often on a huge cast iron pan, and then seasoned generously with black pepper, wrapped in paper, and eaten while hot with your hands. It’s street food, intended to be washed down with a plastic cup of icy rosé. Put that on the must-do list.

Socca with Greens

I found some great advice both from Steph’s blogThe Kitchn, and the inimitable David Lebovitz on how to make socca and I’ve used that combined wisdom in my various attempts, all of which have happily been very successful. I like to eat socca plain as described above (and imagine myself standing on the stony beach in Nice, rosé in one hand; socca in the other), but there are lots of ways to enjoy it. Steph recommends it with a fried egg and spinach or as a grilled cheese-type construction. I also like it warm from the oven, piled high with some peppery greens dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, and honey. If you want to make more of a meal out of it, then this variation with pesto and a spring salad looks amazing and I’ve also heard wonderful things about adding a smear of olive tapenade.

Socca (Chickpea Flour Pancakes)

Makes 2 thin 10″ pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (92 g) chickpea flour (also known as gram flour)
  • 1 cup (240ml) water (add an additional tbsp water for a thinner pancake)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • Sea salt
  • Optional seasonings: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), pinch of spice (chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, za’atar)
  • Optional toppings: try fresh arugula dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, and honey – or – olive tapenade with some fresh greens – or – a fried egg and wilted spinach

Directions

  1. Sieve the chickpea flour into a bowl and whisk together with the water, olive oil, a pinch of salt and any other seasoning you’re trying. Cover with a tea towel and let the batter rest for 1/2 hour to 2 hours to give the flour time to absorb the water.
  2. Set an oven rack six inches below your oven’s broiler and turn on the broiler. Set a cast iron skillet on the rack to warm for five minutes.
  3. Add a teaspoon or so of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the warmed pan. Whisk the chickpea batter quickly and then pour half into the hot skillet. Tilt the pan so the batter coats the entire surface of the pan.
  4. Broil the socca for 3 to 5 minutes or until you see the top begin to blister and brown. If you find the top browning before the batter is fully set, move the skillet to a lower oven rack until done. The socca should be fairly flexible in the middle but crispy on the edges.
  5. Carefully remove from the oven and use a spatula to work your way under the socca and ease it from the pan. Slice it into wedges or squares, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little good olive oil. Repeat with any remaining batter.
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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

John F July 8, 2013 at 8:44 am

Is chickpea flour pretty available?

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Angharad July 8, 2013 at 8:51 am

John, I found it readily available (and cheap!) in bulk at my local co-op and I know you can find it at Whole Foods as well. Otherwise Amazon carries the Bob’s Red Mill brand for a very reasonable price.

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Margaret Clegg July 9, 2013 at 11:34 am

You can find it easily in Indian markets, in which it is called “besan” flour. I LOVE socca! My husbanwill be in Nice this Saturday through next Monday. I told him he HAD to eat some authentic socca for me so that we can compare. Hhhmmmm…I wonder if I can get him to smuggle home in his suitcase?

Christy@SweetandSavoring July 8, 2013 at 10:12 am

Socca is one of my new favorite things to eat! You’ve given me some ideas I hadn’t thought of- like olive tapenade or piled with greens- thanks!
Usually I’ll make my socca on the stovetop, in a cast iron skillet, and it comes out pretty thick and hearty. I top it with grilled eggplant and tomatoes and a freshly mixed tahini-garlic-lemon-yogurt sauce :)

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Angharad July 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

Christy, that combination sounds absolutely fantastic. Can imagine the tahini-garlic-lemon sauce going so well with socca. And since tomatoes are exploding right now that’s a must!

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emily (a nutritionist eats) July 8, 2013 at 10:48 am

I’ve heard of socca, but have never tried it! Adding garbanzo flour to the grocery list…it sounds delightful!

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Eileen July 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm

These pancakes sound so good! I’ve used chickpea flour to make Indian-style veg cakes before, but never a thin crepe. Must try! And then must definitely spread the resulting socca with tapenade and maybe some goat cheese…

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Laurie @ Relishing It July 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I absolutely love socca– the earthy flavor and the fact that it’s so good for you make me so happy! Yours looks divine. :)

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Kathryn July 9, 2013 at 6:25 am

Our local grocery shop has started selling chickpea flour so I’m definitely going to be making these at the weekend. It sounds so totally delicious especially with that pile of greens.

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Shana July 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

Would this be a good option for pita style bread? I have been looking for something for hummus, and have found nothing yet. I know it would be a lot of chickpeas, but I love it!

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Margaret Clegg July 9, 2013 at 11:36 am

I have eaten it like a wrap at times, stuffed with greens and salad dressing. Because of swirling the batter in the pan, it does tend to fall apart in sections. I think the next time I make it I will try it on our totally flat cast iron griddle and see what happens!

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Angharad July 9, 2013 at 11:37 am

Hi Shana, I think you could definitely try it with hummus. The consistency is much more like a crispy pancake than pita bread though. IF you try it, let me know what you think! Personally, I think the flavour of socca lends itself to something with a bit of a different flavour profile – hence the suggestion for greens or tapenade – and my only concern would be that like you said, the flavours would obviously be very similar. But it’s definitely worth a try! I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it with olive oil and lots of pepper if the hummus doesn’t work out.

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Rhonda July 9, 2013 at 11:16 am

This looks really good, and simple to make. I do not own a cast iron skillet, do you have any suggestions for a replacement? Thank you.

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Angharad July 9, 2013 at 11:39 am

Hi Rhonda,
You could try it in any other kind of metal baking dish I reckon – a large pie tin or something similar should do the trick.

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Marisa July 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Making this today Angharad – thank you for posting this! Never heard of socca before but it sounds wonderful!

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Kasey July 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I have heard so much about socca but have yet to make it. Inching closer… :)

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Angharad July 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Kasey, I think you should go for it! It’s not much of an undertaking once you’ve found the chickpea flour, I promise. And the rewards are great. Love your blog by the way! Thanks for stopping over.

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Wendy Ell August 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Thanks for the recipe. We found a long queue in the markets in a village above Nice. After quite a wait we had a soft pancake wrapped in paper. The taste was something to dream about, especially as it was a cool autumn morning. They were cooked in a bread or pizza oven for about 20 minutes

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Angharad August 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Wendy, thanks so much for this comment and for making my mouth water! Gosh, I am so damn eager to get to Nice and experience socca as street food myself. Wow.

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Ricci September 24, 2013 at 1:33 am

Anyone try these using another technique other than a cast iron pan? I currently do not have one and am looking for an alternative method.

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Angharad September 24, 2013 at 5:43 am

Hi Ricci, I’ve since made these in a regular frying pan and they have worked just fine. You’ll just want to make sure it’s a large enough pan so that you get a relatively thin and crisp pancake and nothing to thick.

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Drabzz October 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Chick pea flour is also called ‘gram flour’ or ‘besan’. It is widely used in Asian cooking. It is non-starchy, full of protein and gluten-free. I use it in my starch-free diet to thicken soups and stews, make pakora and also pancakes like in this excellent recipe.

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Kristi ~ Necessary Indulgences February 13, 2014 at 10:39 pm

I love the way this looks and sounds! I am going to make this tonight and top it like a pizza…. Thank you for the recipe!

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Angharad February 14, 2014 at 10:32 am

Hi Kristi,

Thanks! Topping it like a pizza is a great idea – just go lightly on the toppings, as it’s a very light, thin, and crisp pancake so it won’t hold up to much. I like topping it with olive tapenade, dressed salad greens, or avocado. Let me know how it goes!

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