It always amazes me that, having eaten breakfast in England, we can be enjoying lunch – well, a late one at least – in Italy looking up to the sun and taking in the aromas of the streets. Jasmine flowers and linden trees fighting for our olfactory attention against smokey Vespas, sexy patisserie, melting chocolate, over-ripe peaches, and, of course, the pizza oven with its ubiquitous perfume of woodsmoke, melting cheese and baking bread. That was us just under a week ago and I’m already pining for Tuscany so I fill my days thinking about supper menus that will take us straight back to the places we love. This evening, I’m planning a variety of small Italian dishes including this traditional Tuscan chickpea pancake – known as cecina (also called farinata or socca in France) – made with just four ingredients: gram flour, warm water, olive oil and salt. It has an unbelievable flavour, a crispy top and slightly fluffy middle. It’s a perfect example of one of Italy’s lesser known street foods beloved of children as they return home from school and also by adults who enjoy small slices during aperitivo.
250g gram flour
1 tsp of sea salt
800ml of wam water
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked (optional)
How I make it
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Then add the water very slowly and whisking all the time in order to achieve an absolutely smooth consistency.
Cover with cling film and leave to ferment for at least five hours or overnight if possible.
Place a non-stick shallow 10-inch pie dish in an oven and heat to 225C. Remove the dish from the oven and add a generous glug of olive oil and, if using, the rosemary leaves. Return the dish to the oven and allow the leaves to sizzle in the oil for a couple of minutes.
Remove the dish and quickly add some of the batter to a thickness of about half a centimetre. Return the it to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
When the cecina, is golden, remove from the oven. Sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and some rosemary sprigs (optional) followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Cut into slices and serve immediately.