SOCCA FROM PROVENCE

Traditional to Provence are Socca, thin pancakes based on chickpea flour and mixed only with water and a spoonful of olive oil. Leo has recently learned to make them and his skills are much in demand in hot weather down at the Mas where outdoor snacks are always welcome. Possible flavorings for socca include cumin and coriander, plus a chopped herb such as thyme or rosemary. They are at their best piping hot, though they are just fine the next day too, especially as wraps for sandwiches. Chickpea flour varies very much from place to place, so the amount of water needed in this recipe varies.

As well as sprinkling simply with olive oil and sea salt, socca can also be spread with a tablespoonful or two of cooked vegetables such as onion and tomato with of course a bit of garlic. Eat socca flat like a pizza or roll them to eat out of hand.

Makes about two dozen 5-inch/14-cm socca to serve 4
3 cups/400 g chickpea flour
1¾ cups/425 ml water, more if needed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
4-5 tablespoons olive oil, more for cooking
For the topping:
12 oz/330 g cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
2 lb/900 g white onions, peeled and cut into rings
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 small oven baking tray and 2 large trays; 1 small and 1 large frying pan

1.  Heat the oven to 125˚C/250˚C, oil the baking trays, line the large trays with parchment paper and brush the paper also with oil. Spread the tomatoes, cut side up in the small baking tray, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in the large frying pan, add the onions and thyme with salt and pepper and stir over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce the heat and continue cooking, stirring the onions occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and soft. A few minutes before the end of cooking, stir in the vinegar, taste and adjust the seasoning.

3. Increase the temperature of the oven to 170˚C/325˚F. For the batter: Put the chickpea flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and add the water with the water, 1½ tablespoons more olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir with a whisk, gradually drawing in the flour to make a smooth batter.

4. Line two oven trays with parchment paper, brush with a little oil and set aside. Take a small frying pan, and brush very lightly with oil. Set the pan over high heat for a couple of minutes, then reduce to a medium-high and pour in 1-2 tablespoons of socca batter, twisting and shaking the pan to make a 0.5cm/5 mm thick layer. After two minutes or so, air bubbles will appear as it sets. Use a palette knife to loosen the socca from the pan, then toss it or carefully lift and turn it over with the knife. Cook until brown on the underside, 1- 2 minutes longer, then slide the socca onto the lined tray. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Transfer the socca to cook in the warm oven for 6-8 minutes, then remove and set aside until ready to serve.

5. Spread the socca with plenty of onion then top with the tomato halves and return to the oven to heat up, for about 7 minutes or so. Serve warm.