The history of this dish is quite funny. Back in the XIII century, Pisa and Genoa were the two great powers of the Mediterranean Sea. They were the USA and the USSR of the time, fighting for dominion over the coast of Northern Africa and much of the coast of Spain, Sardinia, Corsica. The story goes that in 1264, after the naval battle of the Meloria, where Genoa defeated Pisa, Genoa was able to capture many prisoners from Pisa. On their way back to Genoa though, a thunderstorm caught the fleet at sea, and the waves and the wind caused the cargo on the Genoan ships to go loose. The cargo was mainly made of jars of chickpeas and olive oil, which were the major source of food for sailors and soldiers at the time.
The chickpeas and the olive oil blended together, creating a very appalling looking batter. The Genoans, being very stingy (this is a feature that they kept to these days) didn't want to throw this batter away, and they thought of serving it to the Pisa prisoners. The proud Pisa boys refused to eat it at first, because they had standards. Legend goes that one of them refused to even touch his plate, leaving it in the sun for one entire day. The day after, the disgusting looking batter had turned into a much more appealing focaccia bread, thanks to the heat of the sun. And the cecina was born.
|Schiacciatina con la cecina and a spuma, a typical soda from Pisa|
Making the cecina is extremely easy on paper. After all, you only need water, chickpeas flour, olive oil, salt and pepper. But you can rest assured that every time you will try, the end result will be different from the previous time: too burnt, too liquid, too soft, not creamy enough. And it will never be as good as the cecina you will find in the pizzerias, because the real deal requires a wood fire oven. On the plus side though, any result you will obtain will be very good, as long as you eat it freshly cooked.
Tradition wants for you to use a copper round pan. But most people(including me) don't have a round copper pan...I have making this at home with other pans and it always came out nicely. Lately, I have been baking it with my new best friend in the kitchen, a 10 1/4 inches (25cm) cast iron skillet. But any large pan, even a square baking sheet, will do, as long as it is flat. The trick is to make sure that batter, when poured into the pan, is 5mm, i.e. 1/5 of an inch.
You can find chickpea flour in most supermarkets, either in the baking aisle or in the international aisle. If not, you can search Amazon.com for chickpea flour, and there are plenty of options.
Cecina (chickpea focaccia) - ingredients (for four people)
DOWNLOAD OR PRINT THIS RECIPE.
In the metric system, the ratio between flour and water in this recipe is very simple: 1 part of flour for three parts of water (for instance 100 grams of flour for 300 ml of water). So, if you have a metric scale things will be easier. If not, just use the quantities I have put here for four people as a basis.
- 100 grams of chickpea flour (3.5oz)
- 300 ml of water (1.27 cups)
- 3tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- rosemary (optional) or any other herbs/topping you may fancy - I normally only use rosemary IF I use anything at all.
How to make it
- Mix the chickpea flour and the water in a bowl, stir, cover and let it sit for 2-6 hours. Don't worry if there are clogs when you mix the flour and water: they will dissolve while the batter sits.
- Coat the pan/cast iron skillet with 1tbsp of olive oil.
- When the batter is ready, stir it, add salt and pepper (not too much pepper, because you want to add some pepper when the cecina has been cooked). If you are using rosemary or other stuff, this is the time to put it in.
- Pour the batter into the pan or iron cast skillet. Add the rest of the olive oil. With a wooden spoon, gently turn the batter in the pan so as to break the olive oil. The batter should be 5mm (1/5 of an inch) high.
- Bake the batter in a preheated oven at 450F (200-230 C) for 15 minutes. Broil then the pan on high for an additional 5 minutes, so that a golden crust forms. Cooking times will widely varies depending on the oven. In some cases you will have to bake it for much longer, in some other you may need only 10 minutes. The important thing to keep in mind is that the cecina should be firm enough so that you can easily cut it in slices and take it off the pan, but still creamy enough not to be confused for a normal focaccia: have a look at the photo at the bottom to see what I mean: for me that is a little undercooked, because it doesn't have the nice golden crust that you have in the photo that I put at the beginning of this post. But it is creamy as it should be. So shoot for something in between the two photos: a brown crust, but creamy.
Ground some fresh pepper on it, slice it and enjoy it, either on its own as an appetizer or a snack, or with cold cuts or cheese.
|Photo from here.|