I am posting this recipe from the Pays des Bastides in the south west of France, where my wife Sara and I are enjoying a week’s break. France doesn’t have a great reputation for vegetarian food so we are self catering, but that’s fine because one thing France does do in style is its wonderful food markets. The market stalls in the various villages we have visited so far have all been piled with wholesome, seasonal produce, including asparagus, cherries, herbs, beans and peas.
On the subject of food and the French, the French government recently grabbed the headlines with an announcement that French supermarkets are to be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food and must instead donate it to charity or for animal feed.
I may be wrong, but I think that this may be the first legislation of the modern era designed to punish food waste (the UK introduced a successful ban on food waste during the First World War).
Before the announcement, it had been reported in the French media that some supermarkets had taken to pouring bleach over their waste food to deliberately prevent homeless and hungry from using it. Now those same supermarkets will be forced to sign food waste contracts with food charities, and those failing to do so will be subject to fines and, in extreme cases, a refusal to comply with the new law could even result in imprisonment.
I believe this is the right way to go in dealing with the scandal of food waste, and it would be great to see the UK and other countries following France’s lead. You can’t very easily change the way people think, but through legislation you can force them to change the way they behave, and often – in due course – their thought processes will catch up too.
On to the recipe.
As the asparagus season approaches its end, here’s a French-influenced celebration of this wonderful vegetable.
Socca pancakes are a delightful light, crisp street food from Nice, although they probably came originally from Sicily, where a version of chick pea pancakes called panelle dates back even further. If you’ve never had one before I envy you, so do try this recipe.
This combination of flavours and textures is perfect as it is, although non-vegans might like to add a little crumbled feta over the top.
socca pancakes with char-grilled asparagus, tomato and herbs
12 spears asparagus
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
for the tomato and herbs
150 g organic tomatoes, finely chopped
6 black olives, de-stoned, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
juice of ½ lemon
40 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs (I used basil, oregano and flat leaf parsley)
for the socca pancakes
90 g gram (chickpea) flour
40 ml extra virgin olive oil
200 ml cold water
Pinch sea salt
1 additional tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for frying
1. First prepare the socca batter. In a bowl, whisk the gram flour with the sea salt, olive oil and water until you have a smooth batter. Set to one side.
2. Next, prepare the tomatoes and herbs. In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice until emulsified. Add the garlic, chopped tomato, chopped olives, shallots and herbs and stir well to combine.
3. Now for the asparagus. Heat a ridged griddle pan until very hot. Brush each asparagus spear with olive oil and place across the ridges in the pan. Leave for 2 minutes then carefully turn and cook for the same time on the other side, so that you have a nice chargrilled appearance.
4. While the asparagus is cooking, make the socca pancakes. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into a frying pan or skillet and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully pour in half of the batter mixture. Cook for 3 minutes then carefully flip over to cook the other side for a further 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.
5. To serve, place a socca pancake on each plate, top with the asparagus and drizzle over the tomato and herb sauce.
Tags: food waste