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Chickpea Pancake (Farinata)

14 Sep
This is an Italian street food I first tried in Liguria, close to the southern coast of France. A kind of savoury pancake made from ground chickpeas made into a batter with water and seasoned with olive oil, black pepper, salt and sometimes with rosemary. It is a brilliant snack food and perfect for those who have an allergy to gluten and cannot eat wheat, particularly in pasta-eating regions where avoiding gluten can be a real challenge.
Traditionally Farinata is cooked in a wide flat copper pan with a 4-5 cm lip in a hot wood fired oven. In Nice, just back across the border in France, a similar dish called socca is made with the same ingredients and cooked in an oven or in a skillet over flames. I’ve never tasted the French version but this is what the Ligurian one tastes like. I got the recipe from the back of a packet of chickpea flour i bought in Liguria and have tweaked it to taste more like the local vendors.
  • 250g chickpea flour (about 2 cups)
  • 750g water (about 3 cups)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt (1 tsp)
  • Cracked black pepper (1/2 tsp)
  • Rosemary minced (optional)

Put the ckickpea flour in a large bowl or jug, one with a spout if you can so it will make pouring easier, add the water beating as you go. Beat the mixture until you have a lovely smooth batter then add the salt & pepper and oil. Set aside for an hour or more to allow the batter to mature it can be left overnight. Heat the oven to very high and put a metal baking tray or a large paella pan into the oven to heat. If you have one, a paella pan is the nearest thing to the sort of pan used in Liguria.

When the pan is really hot lift out and drizzle with olive oil, to coat all over, then pour in enough batter to cover the surface of the pan in a thin layer, tipping side to side to ensure an even cover. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pop it straight back into the oven. Cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on how hot you can get your oven, until the edges and bottom are brown and crisp and the top is starting to take some colour. remove from the oven and tear or cut into pieces.

Sprinkle with a touch more of salt and pepper then serve with a glass of chilled wine or beer and you have a lovely start to the evening. If you have friends round you might want to put the next batch straight in the oven, this stuff disappears quickly. The quantity here makes enough batter for 4 batches cooked in a paella pan

Variation If you don’t want to use an oven it works fine on a stove top, i find using a heavy cast iron skillet works best. Once it is crisp on the bottom, turn it over and cook to just colouring on the other.

Tips for best and most authentic results make sure that the oven is as hot as it will go, the pan you use is very hot and use plenty of olive oil and salt. My oven will only go to 240c but with fan assisted gets pretty hot, hot enough to get the farinata just right. For really crispy ones make the layer of batter as thin as you can.


Chapatis (Indian Flat Bread)

31 Aug

Chapatis are my favourite kind of bread to accompany savoury dishes and a must to go with any Indian meal. Soft pliable thin breads with a subtle delicate slightly sweet flavour that is a perfect foil for spicy food. They are actually very easy and enjoyable to make and can be frozen.

This recipe makes about 8 chapatis (20cm diameter)
* 2 cups chapatti flour (or whole wheat, sifted)
* ½ cup plain yogurt
* ½ cup warm water
* Extra flour for dusting

Put half the flour (1 cup) into a large bowl. Using the same cup ½ fill it with yogurt then top up with warm water and mix well. Add the yogurt & water mix to the flour and beat. The consistency should be loose and runny. Now start adding the rest of the flour a bit at a time until the mixture starts to form a kneadable dough. (you may need more of less flour).

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes or for up to 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces dust with flour and flatten. Roll out each piece until they are about 20cm wide or whatever size fits your frying pan. Lay the breads out separately on a lightly floured tray or work surface as you finish them. Covering the breads with the
damp towel as you roll out the others. You can roll and cook at the same time but I see to have mishaps this way and burn the bread.

Heat a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, carefully lay the first chapati, top side of the bread down. Cook briefly (only about 10seconds) then flip over to the second side. Cook on the second side until small bubbles begin to form, this will take about 1 minute. Flip the chapatti back to the first side and finish cooking for another minute or so until air pockets start to bubble up in the chapatti. Use a clean tea towel or paper towel to gently press the edges of the air bubbles to spread the air and balloon up the chapatti. When you are happy with your chapati, remove it and lay it on a serving dish or basket lined with a clean cloth, fold the edges over to cover. Continue to cook the other breads, stacking each as it is finished on top of the others and keeping them wrapped.

The measurements in my recipe are in cups this is not the American cup measurement just a domestic tea cup which I use for dishes that require a ratio particularly rice or bread. Chapattis often have salt in the mix but I personally prefer them without salt, as they have a sweeter more subtle flavour without it.

This recipe was originally posted on on 31/8/2006.

Aloo Paratha

23 Aug

Parathas are layered Indian flat breads and this one is my favourite because it is layered with a stuffing of spiced potato. They make a great snack or light lunch served with a selection of Indian relishes, pickles and chutnies.

Parathas served with a selection of chutnies

makes 6-8 parathas

Potato stuffing
This is the basic mixture I use, sometimes I add more spices to the mixture such as: ground turmeric, cayenne, fenugreek, aniseed, cardamom anything you like the taste of really.

* 4 medium potatoes, peeled boiled and mashed
* 1-2 green chillis, very thinly sliced
* 1/2 cumin seeds
* 1 tbsp Green Coriander Seeds, lightly crushed
* salt and cracked black pepper to taste


* 150g whole meal flour
* water
* pinch of salt
* little oil or ghee

Images 1. Parcels ready to roll out. 2. Cooking the first side 3. Oiling the top side before turning again 4. Checking to see if the paratha is cooked

Put the flour into a bowl and slowly add a little water (about 120ml) and mix with your hand to get a soft pliable dough. Knead lightly and leave to rest for 20-30mins. Meanwhile prepare the potato mixture by mixing all the ingredients together. Cut the dough into 6 or 8 equal parts. Knead each ball and carefully roll out dredging with a little flavour to stop it sticking.

Put a spoon full of the potato mixture into the centre of each rolled out circle and gather up the edges to form a parcel or dumpling, twist to secure the dough. Set these aside on a plate as you do them. When you are ready to roll out. Dip the parcels in flour and carefully roll out to a round of 2.5-5mm thick, depending on how thick you would like the breads to be.

Heat a cast iron skillet or tava (Indian chapati pan) over a high heat and when hot, shake off any excess flour, and lay on the first paratha on the hot pan. Cook for 1 minute or so, lift the edges to check the underside of the bread, and when it is starting to brown turn over. Brush the upper cooked side with a little ghee or vegetable oil, I just use a teaspoon to spread a little oil around the surface of the bread. Once the underside is starting to brown evenly turn over and brush the upper cooked side with ghee or oil. Cook each side twice, once dry and once with an oiled surface. Alternatively put a little oil in the pan and shallow fry the breads. I personally think the first method works best. Stack the cooked breads in a covered dish to keep warm and when they are all done serve with chutnies, riatas or any dish of your choice.

For more information on making aloo parathas there are some Indian chefs with great demonstration videos on youtube. Vah Chef is particularly clear and he also shows a version with a cooked filling, which is interesting
Manjulas Kitchen
Vah Chef
Show me the curry

This recipe was originally posted on on 23/8/2008.

Corn Chips

23 Aug

Corn chips are a wonderful snack food, little crisp triangles of ground corn. I remember making them as a student in Glasgow; corn chips and a hot chilli sauce were our flat’s party piece but I hadn’t made them for at least 20 years. I recently bought a packet of corn or tortilla chips in our local supermarket and was so disgusted by the list of crap they contained I just had to start making them again myself to go with all the Tomato Chilli Salsa I’ve bottled. If you make them yourself they are a healthy snack and simple to make.

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp of oil (corn, grape seed or sunflower)
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

Fill a cup with cornmeal and pour into a mixing bowl. Using the same cup fill, to just under 3/4 with hot water add the oil and salt stir and stir into the cornmeal. Work the mixture well, with a metal spoon, until it is well mixed. Leave to rest for 10 – 15 minutes or so, while the oven is heating. You should have a soft pliable dough that comes away clean from the bowl. Dump the ball of dough onto a sheet of aluminium foil, roughly press out with your fingers, then put another layer of foil over the top and roll out. The tin foil stops the paste from sticking and allows the paste to be rolled out thinly without breaking. If the ball is two large divide in two and roll out in two batches. Peel the top layer of foil away and score the dough into biscuit sizes then lift the sheet and place on a baking tray. Bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes until the chips are crisp and golden.

Cook’s Tip
The measurements here are in cups. Just a teacup, it doesn’t matter what size the cup is as the ratio that matters. Here in France I’ve used the kind of cornmeal normally used for making polenta, semoule moyenne, or medium ground.


6 May

I brought oatcakes back from Scotland on my last visit home but I was really disappointed with the taste of them, they just didn’t taste like the oatcakes I remembered and when I looked on the packet I was amazed to see a string of incomprehensible stuff along with flavourings that, frankly have no right being in an oatcake. Oatcakes, in true Scottish style, are just oats, salt and water and made that way they are a delicious vehicle for all kinds of dips and cheeses. I used to make oatcakes for breakfast at home when I was a student but they were pretty rough, a bit dense not rolled out properly and cooked on the stove top in a crap frying pan. So I asked a friend of ours and gastronome, Peter, who makes the most delicious light and crisp oatcakes for his recipe. Peter described the process as following: simply empty the contents of a packet of porridge oats into a bowl, add water and mix to a dough, leave the dough to rest for half an hour before rolling out thinly then bake in the oven on a large flat baking sheet until golden and crisp. Cool then break into rough cakes.

With Peter’s instructions in my head I set out to make real Scottish oatcakes. The first thing to know is that there is a knack to getting the right consistency. The first batch I made were, by accident, perfect but the second batch was too wet so the dough was a nightmare to roll out and it took longer to bake. What you are aiming for is a dough that is as dry as you can get it whist still being kneadable and flexible enough to roll out. I don’t have quantities just start with the oats and add the water slowly until you have a good consistency. My only addition to Peter’s recipe is to add a little sesame oil, a hangover from my student days, and I still think it improves the texture and the flavour of the oatcakes.

* Oats
* salt
* warm water
* some sesame oil (optional)
Note when Peter first told me the recipe he forgot the say butter. In his cakes he adds butter but as they seem to work perfectly well without it I am reluctant to add it now when the cakes are so light and crisp  but by all means do if you want to experiment.

Put oats, salt and sesame oil in a bowl and add warm water slowly until the oats bind together. Knead lightly in the bowl then cover and leave to rest. On a scrubbed kitchen top scatter a little flour and put the ball of dough or a clump of dough, depending on how much you have made, on the surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough, keep turning and flouring to prevent sticking, and when thin enough either take the whole cake or slice into pieces and place on a baking tray. Bake at a warm oven 180c for about 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Store in an airtight jar.

This recipe was originally posted on on 6/5/2008.

Tatti Scones

8 Apr

South of the Scottish border these would be known as potato cakes but I have to call them tatti scones as that is what I was brought up calling them. My sister and niece were visiting last week, from Scotland, so I had a go at making their favourite breakfast. These scones were surprisingly easy to make and they came out tasting just as they should, yummy! I got the recipe from the Glasgow Guide which I’ve only slightly altered.

* 500g potatoes
* 140g plain flour (approx)
* 6 tbsp butter
* 1 tsp salt

Boil the potatoes in a large pan with plenty of water until soft. Drain and mash, add the butter and salt then add enough flour to make a kneadable dough. It needs to be very soft and not too dry, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Flour a clean work surface and roll out the dough to a flat round about half a centimetre thick. Cut each circle into 4 equal sections. Heat a heavy frying pan, lightly oil and gently fry/griddle the scones in batches, until lightly browned on both sides and cooked right through. Delicious served with bacon, eggs and tomatoes, spread with marmite or just scoffed as they are.

This recipe was originally posted on on 8/4/2008.