Many parts of the world have pancakes, fritters, or thicker, baked “pan” cakes that are made from chickpea flour and water. In these variations, an infinite array of flavourings are added to the base – spices and herbs; thinly sliced vegetables such as onion, tomatoes, and zucchini, beans sprouts; coriander leaves to give a fresh crisp punch; basil or parsley oil is a terrific addition.
The various versions of the chickpea pancake – farinata in Italy, socca in France, pudla or cheela in India – are often found in the streets of cities and at roadside stalls in the rural areas. They are served on parchment paper or piece of banana leaf, and devoured hot on the spot.
The batter can be made several days before using, so plan ahead and use spare moments to mix the batter, ready for a quick snack or a mezze dish. Mix up a double amount, and make pancakes one day, and baked chickpea pizza a day or two later. Divine.
Farinata, Socca, Pudla, Cheela, Giant Pakora – Making Chickpea Flour Pancakes and Pizza
A Note on Chickpea Flours
Chickpea flour is made from beige or white chickpeas and is popular in Italian and other European cuisines. It is available in specialty stores and in Italian shops and goes by the name Garbanzo Bean Flour or Farina di Ceci. This is the flour that is traditionally used for Farinata and Socca.
Besan found in Indian stores is not made with whole chickpeas, but with split and peeled small chickpeas called either channa dal, split bengal gram or yellow dal. Flour made from channa dal has a pale yellow colour, a slightly stronger taste and a nutty flavor. It is popularly known as besan, or gram flour and is used extensively in Indian cooking, including cheela /pudla.
However, although the two flours have differences, they can be used interchangeably – besan just has a slightly stronger and slightly nuttier taste.
There is also Whole Channa Flour. This is made from small Indian black chickpeas and is different from besan. Like other whole grain flours, it contains cereal germ, endosperm and bran. It is used for making chapatti when combined with other flours.
Grind Your Own Flour
One other consideration – if you have a Vitamix or similar blender with a container that has special blades for grinding grains, chickpea flour can be made at home from dried chickpeas. Simply add a cup of dried chickpeas to the container and follow the maker’s instructions. For my blender, it takes about 1 minute to get fine flour. When even finer flour is required, allow the container to cool for a few minutes, then grind for a further 30 – 60 seconds. Use the tamper while grinding to ensure an even grind.
The flour is not as bright yellow as purchased flour, and it has a wonderful texture that is quite delightful.
Using 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 tspn sea salt and 1 tspn black pepper, make a batter with 0.75 – 2 cups water, depending on your flour and desired thickness. Whisk well so that no lumps remain and you have a smooth batter. Add 2 Tblspns olive oil and mix through. If using immediately, allow the batter to stand for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.
Otherwise, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 – 4 days. It may thicken on standing, simply give it a good whisk and add more water to return it to a desired consistency. Bring the batter back to room temperature before using.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add 0.5 – 1 tspn of unflavoured or lemon eno to the batter. It is an Indian trick that adds lightness to the farinata.
To Make Chickpea Pancakes
Pudla, Cheela, Chilro, Besan Ja Chilra or Besan Chila, all names for Indian chickpea “pancakes” or fritters.
Ensure that the batter is at the desired thickness by whisking it, then adding additional water if necessary. You need a flowing consistency for small, thick pancakes, and thinner for crepe like pancakes. Add any desired flavourings to the batter.
Pour some batter into a greased, heated pan. For small, thicker pancakes that might be 2 Tblspns per pancake. For thinner and larger pancakes, add 3 – 4 Tblspns and tilt the pan so that the batter forms a layer around the pan.
Cook until the batter is set. For thicker pancakes, you can turn them once the bottom is well set. Serve while still warm.
Farinata / Socca made with Home Ground Chickpea Flour, with Herb Oil
Socca and Farinata are delicious served with h’rous (a capsicum, onion and turmeric paste), or with harissa diluted in 1 – 2 Tblspn of olive oil.
Farinata del Bosco
Blend some dried porcini mushrooms and rosemary leaves, then w.hisk into the seasoned chickpea flour batter. Cook as described above.
Check out our Different Chickpea Pancake Recipes
To Make Chickpea Pizza – Baked Farinata/Socca
Heat your oven to 230C.
Choose a dish that is oven proof and has sides of 1 – 2 cms. Heat it in the oven with 2 – 3 Tblspn olive oil. Once it is hot, carefully remove it and pour the chickpea batter into the pan in a thin layer, perhaps 0.5 cm in depth. Sprinkle herbs over the top, or add a few thin slices (or finely chopped) pieces of onion, tomato and coriander.
Place the pan back into the hot oven and bake for 10 mins or until the batter is cooked. Cut into wedges or squares and serve while warm.
Check out our Different Chickpea Pizza Recipes
- Farinata with Tomatoes, Onions and Cheese
- Farinata with Onions and Tomatoes
- Socca – Chickpea Flour Pizza
Other Flavour Additions
Be inventive with your flavourings. The trick is to avoid adding any heavy ingredients to Chickpea Pizzas otherwise they will sink in the batter. Keep them light but flavoursome. Here are some suggestions for adding to the batter or sprinkling on top of the pancakes and pizzas.
Chilli – flakes or paste
Coriander leaves, or coriander paste
Fresh herbs – chives, spring onions, oregano, marjoram, parsley, tulsi, dill, young rosemary leaves, etc
Peas, or any finely chopped or grated (but not watery) vegetable – avoid pumpkin, potato, sweet potato and other hard vegetables
Spice powders and spice mixes
Other powders – golpar, dried vine leaves, dried mushrooms ground to a powder
Make a Giant Pakora
A beautiful Pakora can be made by cooking the batter in a frying pan with plenty of ghee. I made this amazing Giant Pakora, but you can substitute any vegetable for the vine leaves. Just cut or grate finely.
Crespeou (Egg Free)
Stack layers of these pancakes, coloured with herbs and spices, and sandwich together with a chutney, or puree (eg pesto) for a delicious meal or picnic dish. It is a take on the French version made with Omelettes. Crespeou (Eggfree).