I’ve grown up eating Chilla, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. It’s always yummier when you add onions, tomatoes and chillies to the mix- kind of like a masala omelette, only vegetarian. On the streets of Old Delhi, thin spiced chillas are rolled with tomatoes, paneer, and heated over a hot tawa, usually served with spicy chutney. A street food favourite in India, the chilla is enjoying its moment in the spotlight in the west because it’s gluten-free obviously. There’s a spike in another kind of chickpea pancake too- the farinata/socca (depends on whether you’re in Liguria or Provence).
The real difference between a chilla and a farinata/socca is the fermenting time of the batter and its final texture. Naturally leavening it for a few hours gives the farinata pancake a lightness that is different from the crepe-like chilla. When you do cook the batter after it has sat for all those hours, you’re left with an uttapam crispness on the outside and a custardy centre- a different kind of chilla, but one that I’m beginning to enjoy just as much. I had to test it quite a few times to get the timing just right- the longer the batter sat, the better the pancake became. Eventually, for those in a hurry, I’d say 4 hours at least, and 12 hours max. This will yield a delicious Farinata. For best results, I suggest you start on a hot pan and finish in a hot oven.
I’ve served the Farinata with a Curry Leaf and Almond Pesto. The recipe for this came from Pooja Dhingra’s second book, The Wholesome Kitchen. Celebrated food writer, Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi’s contribution, this genius recipe combines equal parts curry leaves and nuts with garlic and green chilli to make a delicious chutney that goes splendidly with the farinata. Pick up the book for recipes such as Parineeti Chopra’s take on an eggless carrot cake with jaggery, Chocolate Chip Bars With Peanut Butter and Apple Sauce and a Banana and coconut butter frosting that sounds oddly delicious.
Salt 1 tsp
Chickpea flour/Besan 150g
Extra virgin olive oil 3-4 tbsp
Whisk together the soda, salt, chickpea flour and 2 tbsp of oil until smooth, and let it sit undisturbed for 4 hours minimum, or max 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius or 180 degrees fan.
Take an oven-proof pan and heat it till smoking. Then, brush the surface with some oil and whisk the batter. Next, carefully add 1/3rd of the prepared batter to the pan and let the base begin to set, for about 1-2 minutes.
Transfer the pan to the oven and let it continue cooking for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges have pulled away and crisped. Turn the farinata onto a plate and finish with either some pesto, chutney, or any toppings you like.
Repeat for the rest of the batter.