Nothing strikes more terror into the heart of a cook than being told that a guest is allergic or intolerant to certain foods. I find that it tends to concentrate the mind, not – as you may think – on what you can cook but, rather, what you can’t. Told that I need to avoid spicy foods, my brain invariably starts wandering through all my Indian and Moroccan favourites. For vegetarians, I start musing over soups with meat bases or, perhaps, Mexican Beans – cooked with bacon!
In New Zealand we regularly had coeliac and gluten-intolerant visitors and, once I had wrenched my mind away from couscous, bulgur and pasta-based meals, there was no problem. Roast Leg of Lamb, cooked with haricot beans, and served with Garlic Potatoes and Roasted Carrots was a particular favourite. Other safe – and tasty – dishes were Frittatas, curries or even Braised Lamb Shanks with Chickpea Mash. Fellow blogger, Gluten-Free Girl is always a good source of recipes as well.
As a result, I constantly keep an eye out for good gluten-free dishes and, when I first came across Mark Bittman‘s recipe for a French flatbread, made with gluten-free chickpea flour, called Socca (or farinata in Italy) in an old New York Times article, my interest was piqued. However, getting my hands on the chickpea flour, was a little difficult and, between one thing and another, I almost forgot about it. An entry, however, on The Laughing Gastronome reminded me about the dish and, when I finally tracked the flour down – in one of Dublin’s great Middle Eastern shops, Spiceland (also the source of large, wonderfully fragrant bunches of coriander for curries) – I was newly determined to try the recipe.
As the Boyfriend had put himself in charge of dinner that evening, he did all the actual cooking. There was some simple homemade tomato pasta sauce in the fridge, courtesy of his previous night’s dinner, which he smeared on top of the cooked flatbread, sprinkling it with a handful of chopped chorizo before finishing it off with grated cheese for a Pizza-style Socca. We ate it hot and the base was very good, moist and supple, a little like polenta. This is perfect snack or light supper for your gluten-intolerant friends or family – and it’s also tasty enough to be well worth cooking even if you don’t have to cut gluten out of your diet.
Update 17 May 2006: As Maj pointed out in the comments below, chorizo may not be suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. Always check the label and, if in doubt, there’s lots of information about non-friendly additives on US site Celiac.com.
If you’re using this as a pizza base, you don’t really need the red onion – but it’s up to you!
Chickpea flour – 1 cup
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Ground black pepper – 1 teaspoon, at least, ground black pepper
Lukewarm water – 1 cup
Olive oil – 4 tablespoons
Red onion – ½, thinly sliced
Homemade tomato sauce – 3 to 4 tablespoons
Grated cheese – a couple of handfuls
Chopped chorizo – a handful
Preheat the oven to 230°C. Put a cast iron frying pan or non-stick 30cm pizza pan in the oven.
Sift chickpea flour into a bowl with salt and pepper then slowly add the lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, cover and let sit while oven heats, or up to 12 hours.
Stir the sliced red onion into the batter. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into the heated pan, swirl to cover pan evenly and pour in batter. Return to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until socca is firm and edges set.
Eat now or:
Heat the grill and spread socca with the homemade tomato sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and set it 5-10cm below the grill for a few minutes, until all is warm and bubbling happily. Cut into wedges and serve hot.
Serves 2 as a light supper.
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman.