When I travel, I like to try local specialties. It’s just part of the fun of eating and drinking in other countries. But learning about different foods and experiencing them is also a huge part of becoming a better cook.
I’ve had haggis in Scotland (a bit bland), banana beer in Rwanda (terrible), conch in the Cayman Islands (incredible.) Two foods I’ve refused to try were Casu Marzu in Corsica, a cheese covered in live maggots, and red-sauced, still-moving snails in Spain.
I’ll probably never eat fried spiders, grilled grasshoppers, and definitely not barbecued guinea pigs. (I did end up eating guinea pig ravioli years after I wrote this post!) So I guess I’m not the most adventurous when in comes to experiencing local food, but I do my best.
In the fall of 2015, my husband and I traveled to France, to begin a magical two-week road trip. Our guide was the incomparable Stéphane Gabart, from the blog My French Heaven. This was my third time visiting him. He knows and loves France, and he has great passion for French food and wine. He’s a professional chef, photographer, he’s really funny, and best of all, he’s my friend.
On this trip we traveled throughout Provence, stopping in quaint villages. Stéphane planned lunch in Castelnaudary, just so we could experience authentic cassoulet. And when we reached le Côte d’Azur, we enjoyed traditional bouillabaise in Cassis. In Avignon, I ordered pieds paquets, or veal toes, after treating myself to snails (the kind that are not alive).
Before leaving Nice to return home, I wanted to try a local specialty socca. I must have seen it in a cookbook, but had no idea what to expect. I expected socca to look more like cornbread, but it was more crêpe-like.
What makes socca different is that it’s made with garbanzo bean flour and not wheat flour.
The restaurant where we lunched in vieux Nice is at the left of the plaza.
At our final lunch together, I ordered socca with a Salade Niçoise and this is what it looked like.
Just for fun, I thought I should recreate socca at home. I am using a recipe from the blog Foodie Underground, written by Anna Brones.
Mine don’t look quite the same as what I had in Nice, but they were good!
Here’s what I did.
Makes 8 – 6″ in diameter
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup garbanzo bean/chick pea flour
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
This is the garbanzo bean flour I used for the socca.
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well.
At this point, the batter is watery. Cover with a dish towel and put the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour minimum. The batter will thicken, but still be a “thin” batter.
Lightly oil a large round flat skillet. I used my Le Creuset crêpe pan that came with a little wooden tool. I’ve never used it for crêpes, just flatbreads!
Turn the heat to high. When the oil is smoking, gently pour a scant 1/3 cup of the batter onto the skillet, much as you would a crêpe.
The high heat really grabs the batter. You can see little holes forming around the edges.
Wait just until the middle of the socca has firmed up, then flip it over. To best assist with flipping the socca, I used a giant spatula that I usually only use for moving pastry. It’s really thin.
Flip over and cook for just about 30 seconds. This one got a little too browned on the first side.
While still warm, I folded the socca into quarters. My French socca were definitely more pliable than these.
To serve with the socca, I put together a green salad with some fun goodies.
The vinaigrette is a creamy lemon and parsley.
The socca were fantastic. I really loved the flavor of the Herbes de Provence.
Other recipes for socca list cumin or rosemary.
I’ve also seen recipes for socca that are thicker and cooked in the oven, served in wedges. I’m definitely going to experiment more because there is obviously more than one way to make socca. Plus, there are Ligurian recipes for the Italian version, called farinata, which makes sense since Liguria is so close to Nice.
Notice the lacy look of my socca.
The taste is really lovely, and there was no bitterness from the garbanzo bean flour. Their look is so-so, but I’d definitely make these unique pancakes again!
If you’re interested, check out highlights of our trip here Je Ne Regrette Rien.
They look great, Mimi! I loved eating socca in Nice, the taste is gorgeous, but haven’t tried making them. You’ve inspired me to think I should! :)
They were fun to are. Don’t know why they weren’t pliable rollable but they were still good!
Sounds like you had a great time on your trip :) I’m always up for a gastronomy adventure, travelling and trying new food :D
And you can’t go wrong in France!
Socca has been on my list to make for ages! I should really go for it, I have all the ingredients, so thanks for the inspiration!
You are certainly welcome Sally!
but you eat snails!!!!!!!!! >
Just not when they’re still alive.
Those pancakes look wonderful. I like the idea of the garbanzo flour. Oooo the south of France, love it, definitely a food lovers paradise! When I visit other countries, I like to take a cooking class too and learn some of the local cuisine. Not so sure I could stomach anything moving around my plate though :)
Had the best socca in the marché in Antibes.
Nice. I don’t know how good mine were, as I had nothing to compare them to…
Embarrassingly I’ve never heard of this! I thought at first you were making gallettes as we have the Sarrasin flour for that. I do have chick pea flour but I have to get it from the UK! Looks yummy so I’m definitely going to have a go!
That’s why blogging is so great!
I love to travel and try out different foods. France is definitely my favorite food destination. I never had sooca, it looks delicious and I have to try it.
France is my favorite as well. I think the cheese helps, and the charcuterie and wine. But Italy and Germany/Austria is up there on my list too!
I’ve never heard of this but it would definitely be something I’d try! I think rosemary would be wonderful.
Like you, I enjoy eating local and often watch what folks around me are eating to get a feel for what that is.
These look like luscious gems!! I love using garbanzo bean flour Mimi, especially for Indian cuisine! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipes! PS, I wouldn’t eat those things either! ☺
We will be going to Machu Pichu one day, but no guinea pigs for me.
I’ve never tried socca, will fix that soon. I love coming home from a trip and trying to reproduce my favourite food experiences. It’s like having a living souvenir.
That so well said! Unfortunately I cannot replicate the ambiance…
i love that photo of Stefan Mimi. He has been very quiet lately.
I know. I even gave him a heads-up on this post. He hasn’t blogged for a while but he’s been busy with photography and his foodie tours
He’s certainly not been quiet on Facebook ;-)
I’ve unfriended hi. In a friendly way!
I love chickpea flour and chickpea pancakes/socca. They are great given an Indian twist as well. Nice post Mimi.
Thank you Lisa!
Very interesting post, Mimi! I had never heard of socca (though I have been to Provence), and have heard of farinata, but have never tried it. Garbanzo flour is very nutritious. I’m definitely going to try this. To make them more pliable, I suppose you’d have to add egg or, more probably, regular flour with gluten.
I’n sure that would work and I’d like to do that in the future. I wanted to prepare then the traditional way which is only using water! An interesting recipe
P.S. I googled farinata in Italian and discovered three interesting things:
1) the oil and salt are supposed to be added after allowing the batter to rest — I think that will make them more pliable as it will change the texture of the batter (no mention of eggs or regular flour)
2) in Piemonte they’re also called socca
3) there is a legend that farinata was ‘discovered’ during a sea battle between Genova and Pisa in 1284, at which cargo of chick pea flour and olive oil got mixed with sea water. Hungry soldiers didn’t have anything else to eat, and allowed this mixture to dry in the sun to make the first farinata.
That’s so interesting! Thanks!
Lovely memories. Will you try to make snails at home? ;-) I wonder if more water would make them more pliable?
I’ve never made snails. My mother always did. One of my favorite things, although you could eat just about anything with persillade!
Socca – or Cecina, as it was called when we first had it in Viareggio – has been a favorite for years! Love your recipe, too, using herbes de Provence. Mine just uses rosemary.
Wow – such different names for the same thing!
I never had socca, or even heard about it (although Italy’s border is so close to Nice!) but I have chickpea flour and a brand new crèpe pan. These are on my list! I don’t really care about the look, I am pretty sure they taste delicious!
They’re definitely worth trying – chick pea flour is so unique!
Yum, yum, YUM! I just wish I had some right now!