chickpea pancakes, wilted greens and poached egg

Florence Knight

Tasty, seasonal and virtuous, let wilted winter leaves soothe your soul

Following the indulgence of the festive season, January is traditionally the time of promises of reform and restraint. After weeks of rich food I often crave the wholesome flavours of wilted greens and pulses, especially in hot broths brimming with fragrant herbs.

At this time of year, we often feel the need to nourish and heal ourselves. Cavolo nero, kale and leafy lemons are in abundance and not short of flavour. Chickpea pancakes are a kind of street food known as socca in Provence, or farinata in neighbouring Liguria, where they are traditionally cooked in wood-fired ovens in copper pans. To get the best results, you should try to replicate these conditions as best you can. I use a heavy metal tray, but you’ll have an advantage if you own a pizza stone. Most important, make sure your oven is hot.

I try to avoid thick soups after Christmas, and there’s something comforting yet refreshing about this lentil and lemon combination. It takes half an hour from stovetop to table, and for much of that time the pot is left to its own devices.

Meals shouldn’t compromise on flavour or comfort to help us brave these January days.
Chickpea pancakes, wilted greens and poached egg

Chickpea flour, also known as garbanzo flour, can be found in most well-stocked supermarkets or health-food shops. This savoury gluten-free pancake is well worth the wait for its custard-like centre and crisp edges. If you have some parmesan, it makes a good partner for the warm pancake.

serves 4 people

120g finely ground chickpea flour
2 capfuls white wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked
4 free-range eggs
200g cavolo nero, tough stalks removed
Juice of ½ unwaxed lemon

Combine the chickpea flour and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. Whisk as you add 460ml water in a steady stream, and continue for a few minutes until it resembles a thin, smooth batter. Cover and set aside for a minimum of 4 hours.

Heat the oven to its hottest setting and place an oven rack close to the top. Place a flat, heavy tray on the rack and let it heat through.

Add the vinegar to a deep pan of water and bring to the boil. Bring a second pan of salted water to the boil.

Meanwhile, pour 3 tbsp olive oil onto a baking tray, to coat evenly. Use a spoon to skim and discard the bubbly foam from the surface of the batter and stir well before pouring it onto the prepared tray.

05 Rotate the tray to distribute the batter evenly — the olive oil should rise to settle on its surface. Scatter over the rosemary and grind over a little black pepper. Quickly and carefully place the tray into the hot oven on the flat tray and cook for 12-15 minutes until just set with a slight wobble and a crisp golden exterior. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes to set.

06 While the batter is cooking, crack one of the eggs into a glass or cup. Reduce the heat under the pan with the vinegar to a simmer. Swirl the water around in a circular motion and, once the water settles slightly, lower the cup towards the middle of the swirl so that it almost touches the water, then tip the egg out in a quick, fluid motion. Lightly poach for 3 minutes or until the white is just set.

07 Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll before placing on a plate. Repeat the poaching process with the remaining eggs. If you’re confident, poach two at a time.

08 Add the cavolo nero to the boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain well and return it to the empty pan with the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil and the lemon juice to taste.

09 Divide the golden baked pancake between four plates and top with a good pile of hot wilted cavolo nero and soft, runny poached egg.