a bit shallow

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I had plans to write about chicken cooked with rosemary, bay leaves, garlic and just enough red wine vinegar to sharpen nicely but not dominate. Then I was going to write about peaches, baked ones, a variation on these, the last of which is still sitting in the kitchen, slumped really in a pool of rose-coloured syrup, wrinkled and waiting for a heart-stopping blob of mascarpone. My next thought was beans. The white beans I soaked, simmered and then mixed while still warm with tuna and slivers of red onion last Friday. Another recipe I’ve written about before, but one that merits a few more words. No, no, I should buy figs, a whole crate of them, write a hilarious story about getting them home with a toddler and then take whimsical pictures of them in the dappled light of my kitchen. Better still, I should flipping forage. Forage purslane from the riverbank and between the cracks in the pavement near the slaughter-house then make something ancient and wild. I should, I could.

I feel a little like the weather; close, grumbling and liable to crack into a storm at any moment. As I write, the plane trees which usually strand to attention on either side of Via Galvani are swaying drunkenly from side to side. I can hear the rain hitting the iron griddle pan that’s balanced on the balcony wall – at least it’s getting a wash. My washing is outside. Maybe I should just tell you about the peaches, after all the pictures are lovely. No, I should have an espresso.  Wait, the rain has stopped, the sun is trying to come out, I should tell you about farinata.

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Farinata - a specially from Liguria and similar to Sicilian panelle and Tuscan cecina - is made from three things: chickpea flour, water and salt. After whisking the three ingredients together and letting them rest, you bake this sunshine-yellow batter in a shallow tin with plenty of oil until it’s firm, golden and slightly flaky on top. Once you’ve scored it and eased it out of the tin, it looks like a piece of fat, flaking pancake. You serve farinata dusted with good grind of black pepper or a spritz of lemon. It not only the nicest thing I have made all week, it’s the nicest and most surprising thing I have made for a while.

Chickpea flour is made from ground chickpeas so has the same, sweet, creamy, nutty flavor with a touch of bitterness about it that chickpeas have. Mixed with water into a worryingly thin batter, chickpea flour sets into the most lovely golden flatbread/pancake which when cut into endearingly floppy squares and given a dusting of black pepper and /or a squeeze of lemon juice is utterly delicious. If you like chickpeas that is. If not, may I suggest fiori di zucca.

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Delicious too, is how easy it is to make. Whisk, pour and bake. There is the rest for the batter of course, two hours at least, so this is no last-minute affair. As I have already mentioned the batter is disturbingly thin. The oil too is perplexing: the sheer quantity, the way it sits in golden bubbles in the batter. Don’t worry.

As is so often the case with Italian recipes, the baking time noted is q.b or quanto basta or how much is enough. Now I have never been good at judging how much is enough. On this occasion however, all was well with a guess and two investigative prods. In my cranky oven, in a shallow enamel baking tin, my batter took 30 minutes until settled and burnished. I’ve since read advice about non-stick pans and tins but I’m reluctant as I like the easing and scraping with wooden spatula, and I just adore the crispy, dark-gold bits that stick to the edges of the tin waiting to be chiseled away (privately) by the cook.

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Farinata – chickpea flatbread

Serves three or four as an antipasti. Also good as a main course with peperonata or green beans and tomatoes

Adapted from a recipe by Gianfranco Vissani 

  • 150 g chickpea flour
  • 450 ml water
  • salt
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper to serve

Using a balloon whisk mix together the chickpea flour, water and a good pinch of salt until you have a smooth batter. Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for two hours.

Preheat the oven to 180 ° / 350 F. Use a slotted spoon to skim away any froth that has risen to the surface and then whisk the batter again.

Pour the olive oil into a baking tray or dish. Tilt the dish so the base and sides are well coated with oil. Pour in the batter and then use a fork to distribute the oil into the batter. It will not incorporate entirely but look bubbly and a little like mottled paper.

Bake the batter for 20 – 30 minutes or until it is set firm and golden on top. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before using a knife and spatula to ease it from the tin in squares or triangles. Grind over plenty of black pepper and eat immediately while still warm.

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50 Comments

Filed under antipasti, chickpea flour, food, odd posts, olive oil, rachel eats Italy, rachel eats Rome, Rachel's Diary, summer food

50 responses to “a bit shallow

  1. Yep, delicious, despite (or because of?) thin batter and simplicity. Thanks for introducing me to another great recipe. PS – is panelle in any way different?

    • rachel

      Panelle is often fried but more or less the same consistency. Always nice to get your seal of approval. What will I do when you go?

  2. Sounds absolutely delicious Rachel – if I were to tinker (because I can’t help myself) it would be to add a little chopped rosemary to it…hope the break in the weather has afforded you a little relief from the heat!

  3. As always, beautifully written and delicious-looking. I love farinata! I was somewhat disturbed by the batter the first time I made it, but am more used to it now!

    • rachel

      I was completely thrown, it just looked so thin and weedy. I hoped it would thicken up and I nearly added more flour. So glad I kept the faith…

  4. 'Chela

    I cant tell you how comforting it is to get a missive on your ‘vita alla romana’. I grew up in Roma, adore Testaccio (only place we stay when visiting), and LOVE your attegiamento re cooking-writing-raising. If I could figure it out, I’d post a foto of the ‘Spaghetti da Felice’ I made last nite with my homegrown toms & mint (No, I dont have a 4-legged ricotta salata producer – yet).
    Grazie mille!

    • rachel

      Hi ‘Chela – it is always a real thrill to get approval from a Roman. I adore spaghetti alla felice (nice reminder). With homegrown bounty – lucky you. Thanks to you too x

  5. I have the same issue: I have says Shen I cook and buy and cook and take more pics and feel like I should buy that other thing too, to make that other dish I had seen in that evening standard the night before! Only, then I have never time to write and post and the recipes go out of season! XD
    Farinata – oh, such memories of Camogli… Utterly fantastic beach snack!

  6. Lovely post and definitely something new to try – but how did I miss the peach post?? Oh my goodness – that looks FABULOUS!

    • rachel

      Tasty and easy – I hope you try. The peaches too, they are so good (which is nothing to do with me and everything to do with the brilliant idea to bake peaches filled with almond biscuits and butter)

  7. I had a chef friend in Zimbabwe that used to cook this for me at his lovely garden cafe. I should really try and make it myself!

    • rachel

      Ridiculously easy, just remember the batter looks disturbingly thin – don’t panic. I got the tin from Emanuela’s stall on Testaccio market – have you been?

  8. Rachel, You’ve done it again…made a non-cook think about cooking something. And this post has the most amazing timing: I just went gluten-free two weeks ago and am desperately looking for a way to eat “bread”. Chickpea flour! Grazie!!!!!

  9. A favourite. and gluten free

    PS you could use a good search function to your blog. Looking for tips on Kale.

    • rachel

      It is. And yes you are right (and not the first to note), I need a good search tool, my blog is ridiculously hard to navigate – Will improve. R

  10. Eha

    This IS simple and I have not made it before and I really have to put it in the Q! And love the story of ‘procrastination’ before also . . . have missed so many of your posts – thought you had not had a chance to talk to us: only to find whole pages of subscriptions missing on my side! Annoying but all fixed, I hope ;) !

    • rachel

      I am a procrastinating pro. I blame the weather. Glad the subscription is all ok (hope that wasn’t my end) as it is always nice to have you here R

  11. This sounds interesting, I have never heard of such a thing. I love chickpeas or garbanzo beans as I call them. I can’t wait to try this.

    • rachel

      I hadn’t heard of it before moving to Italy. Tasty (the flavour is particular but if you love chickpeas then I am sure you will adore this and simple.

  12. laura

    In re your options about what to write about, believe me, whatever you write about makes me want to try it. Up here we call it “cecina”. Great to have a recipe for it. Thank you!

    • rachel

      Cecina, of course (I’ve added it). We has such good cecina in livorno sitting on a wall by the sea. Thunder every afternoon in Rome, autumn is rumbling in, which means leaves to crunch and pasta e ceci. Hope you are well? xx

  13. Another new to me recipe to put on my “to try”list. I haven’t cooked in ages let alone written a word. TODAY is moving day and I’ve been packing for a month. We are really downsizing, but we still have TOO MUCH STUFF! Hopefully, this will be one of the first dishes I try in my new kitchen. xo

  14. Lovely and simple. And yes, there are so many seductive photos of peaches, but sometimes the story won’t write itself. Thank you for this lovely contemplative piece, and a recipe I will try. Sophie

    • rachel

      I stared at the peaches for hours, so pretty but no story. Not sure there was really a story here! Well apart from the no story story. It is one to try, curious but very good.

  15. Bravo! What a delightful post. And I have some chickpea flour that needs to be used…

    • rachel

      ….perfect, whisk it with some water and a good pinch of salt immediately and in two and a half hours you too can eat farninata (and drink beer or wine, it goes well with both)

  16. Sounds delicious, and one of those “deadly” morsels that you keep eating. Just another little bit…

  17. Love this recipe. I am such a novice baker…and am so curious about the purpose of the “resting” period. I am certainly going to make this. I’m encouraged by it’s simplicity.

  18. I was just curious about why it needs to rest for 2 hours prior to baking. Not worried. :)

    • rachel

      The batter does thicken a little and I suppose something is happening to the flour, a mini fermentation of sorts. I think. Anyway it is important. R

  19. I have been waiting for someone to tell me (well) about farinata for a long, long while. (I have been told about it, halfheartedly, haphazardly, many times. Never made. Never inspired.) Don’t believe me? I’ve a bag of chickpea flour in the cupboard, just waiting for such a nudge.

    Nudge taken. Fomenting farinata plans as I type….

    • rachel

      Glad to here it and hope you (all )enjoy it. It goes very well with beans, both braised (like yours) or the tomato onion ones I wrote about a while back. back back back to school x

  20. Liz

    Yes!! Thankyou – excited to get this post, since we were curious and ordered this a starter recently in Liguria. Have since come home and attempted to cook and introduce it to friends back here in Australia :) Can’t believe something so simple is so tasty and is a massive crowd-pleaser too (even with my tentative explanation that its main ingredient is chickpea!)… have found the old cast iron fry pan works a treat … keen to try your recipe now also.

    • rachel

      Do you put the pan in the oven or fry on top? Yes it is a crowd pleaser, especially if it’s still warm and dusted with lots of pepper and wedges of lemon to spritz if you wish.

      • ll

        Well, the first recipe I tried suggested sautéing thinly sliced onion in the pan on stovetop, and then adding the batter to the hot pan, topping w rosemary and then straight into the oven … It’s not how we first ate it, but it was nice too. The lemon is a great idea!

      • rachel

        I like the idea of starting it above and then moving to the oven, also the rosemary.

  21. God, you’re funny. I like the meta-analysis, the seeing-oneself as blogger perspective. “No, no, I should buy figs, a whole crate of them, write a hilarious story about getting them home with a toddler and then take whimsical pictures of them in the dappled light of my kitchen. Better still, I should flipping forage. Forage purslane from the riverbank and between the cracks in the pavement near the slaughter-house then make something ancient and wild. I should, I could.” There’s so much there about blogging, about authenticity, and about a certain jaded awareness of the whole enterprise that is… hilarious. Ken

  22. I’ve got some friends round for dinner tonight so I have just made this as a nibble for drinks – I just wish they would hurry up and get here!! It looks amazing…thanks for the recipe.

  23. Pingback: Recipes to Try | Live and Learn

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