Do you own a deep fryer? I don’t. Sometimes I regret it, but it’s one of those kitchen appliances, that I can’t see myself using more than once or twice a month, certainly not enough to justify the acquisition and deal with another dust collector crowding our shelves. It’s not that I don’t like fried or deep fried food: Pittole, homemade potato chips or apple crullers are among my favorites and the crisp-factor makes it easy to overlook their rather unhealthy character – from time to time. Here is my workaround: if something deep fried makes it onto my cooking list, a wok or medium sized pan/pot together with a thermometer usually do a good job and let you – in most cases – get away with less oil or fat (think pan fried instead of deep fried).
But not only the health aspect makes it hard to embrace fried food, hot and sultry weather aren’t exactly a great basis for frying frenzy. However, munching away on hot and greasy food after a long and freezingly cold winter stroll is so much more satisfying and yet, when I spotted David’s Panisses I decided NOT to wait for colder temperatures. More Panisses posts and memories of Nice sent me straight to Ganesh (a little Indian snack shop down the street) for some chickpea flour and we we’re good to go …
The procedure is straight-forward, similar to fried polenta or fried semolina, yet I found it harder to obtain a smooth batter without any lumps. Since it’s a typical Mediterranean specialty I urge you to only use olive oil, it makes the hell of a difference. They make a great snack with a spice mix and your dip of choice, yet I have to agree with FoodMayhem: Taste-wise they are a close relative to Falafel and my favorite way of eating these Panisses is inside a pita bread together with sliced tomatoes/cucumbers, cole slaw and a spicy yogurt sauce. Already a regular on our table.
Lightly oil a square cake pan (mine is 23 cm/9 inch) or line it with plastic wrap. In a medium sized pot heat the water together with olive oil and salt until hot (but not boiling). Whisk in the sifted chickpea flour (all at once) until you receive a uniform texture without lumps (my second attempt with different gram flour was less successful concerning lumps, no matter how hard I whisked – I used my handheld blender to smoothen things out, worked wonders!). If you decide to spice things up a little, now is the time to season to taste (try curry, garam masala, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic – everything that goes well with chickpeas).
Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir the mash over medium heat for about five minutes (David does for more than ten), until the mixture is pretty thick. Dump the batter into the prepared form, smoothen out the surface as good as possible (easier said than done) and let cool, then chill in the fridge until really firm (at least two hours – or over night).
Unmold the firm mixture onto a cutting board and cut into thick stripes. You gotta love David for his prescriptions: “…and slice into batons about as wide as your fourth finger and as long as your middle one…” (comparing Oliver’s hands to mine, that makes quite a difference ;)
Heat about 2 cm (3/4 inch) of olive oil in a cast iron pan until shimmering hot, then fry the panisses over medium to high heat in various batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Turn them using your kitchen tongs as soon as the bottom sides have reached a nice golden brown color, fry on each of their four sides until evenly browned and crisp.
Remove and drain them on paper towels, then serve with coarse sea salt or your favorite spice mix (my panisses mix consists of coarse sea salt, freshly ground cumin, garam masala powder, dried chilis and freshly ground black pepper).
Recipe source: adapted from David Lebovitz
Prep time: ~30 minutes, frying: 5-10 minutes per batch
Ingredients (for 4 as a snack):
1 l water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 - 1 tsp fine sea salt (to taste)
300g chickpea flour (sifted)
optional: spices like curry, garam masala, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic
more olive oil for frying
serve with: coarse sea salt or a spice mix ( mine includes coarse sea salt, freshly ground curmin, garam masala powder, dried chilis and freshly ground black pepper