focaccia and farinata (chickpea bread)
Everytime I go back to Liguria I have to eat a special meal that takes me back to childhood. What better than focaccia and the very special Ligurian dish called Farinata. They are both very regional but although you will find focaccia all over Italy (with regional differences), farinata is very much found in Liguria and bordering Tuscany.
Farinata is eaten regularly as a starter before a pizza meal in local pizzeria restaurants. As I love both, and I only go back to Italy once a year I've learned to make them at home. I hope you try these simple recipes and enjoy them.
Origin of Farinata
This dish is believed to be around 2000 years old. Romans used to make it by mixing chickpea flour to water and leave to dry in the sun.
This recipe survived after the fall of the roman empire and was widely used in Medieval Italy.
The legend surrounding the dish as we know it today is quite fascinating.
In the 13th century, a ship belonging to the navy of Genoa, was sailing back to the port after a successful battle against the rival port of Pisa. During the journey there was a powerful storm and barrels of chickpea flour and oil became loose and the contents mixed up together with seawater. The ship crew rescued the mixture and left it to dry in the sun. When back in the port they talked about the meal they enjoyed as a consequence of the storm and the recipe was improved by cooking it in ovens.
Recipe for farinata
You will need:
900ml of water
300 g of chickpea flour
200ml olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
oven dish of around 40cm diameter
Mix the flour and water until you get a smooth liquid. Leave to rest, covered (not in the fridge) for about 5 hours. During the rest time stir occasionally.
Sometimes, after the rest time a foam might form on top. If so remove it with a spoon.
Add HALF the oil and salt and pepper. Pour the other half of the oil in your oven dish.
Pour the mixture in the oiled oven dish (it should be only 1 cm thick) and cook in the oven at 220C for about half an hour. The top should be golden. Finish off the cooking by placing the oven tray under a medium grill until the top is golden brown.
Where to get chickpea flour
Recipe for Ligurian focaccia
How to make an authentic Ligurian focaccia
Flour (type 00) 600 gr
Yeast 25 gr
Water 400 ml (warm)
Sugar 2 teaspoons
Olive oil 140 ml
pinch of salt
1) Put salt and sugar and water in a bowl and dissolve.
2) Add 40 ml of olive oil and half the flour. Mix until the mix is smooth (and almost liquid)
3) Add the yeast and mix
4) Add the remaining flour, mix until you reach a smooth and quite sticky dough.
5) Add 50 ml of oil to an oven tray making sure the surface of the tray is all greased with the oil.
6) Put the dough in the tray and brush some of the oil from the tray on the dough. Leave at 30C for an hour and a half. The dough should have doubled in size.
7) After the resting time flattened the dough to cover all of the oven tray, making sure there's enough oil under the dough.
8) Brush some more olive oil on top and sprinkle some salt. Leave to rest at 30C for another half an hour.
9) With your fingers press down on the dough to make lots of small holes as shown in the picture.
10) Pour the remaining olive oil all over and leave to rest for another 30 minutes at 30C.
In the meantime turn the oven at 200C.
11) When the oven is hot, spray the surface of your focaccia with a bit of cold water and put in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (should be golden on top).
12) When cooked remove from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack. The focaccia should be about 1 inch in thickness so choose a large oven tray for this recipe.
Image from: http://ricette.giallozafferano.it
A book all about focaccia and all its varieties
Delicious together: the Tuscan way
A very common way to enjoy Farinata in bordering Tuscany (farinata is actually called called cecina in Tuscany) is to stuff it inside focaccia.
The two really complement each other. It's a lovely snack.
Learn about Liguria
And if you plan a holiday in Italy, definitely worth a visit!