Prep. & cooking time: 1 hr.
1. Preheat the oven (gas mark 6 / 400°F / 200°C). Meanwhile, wash and slice the tomatoes in rings. Rub the courgette skins lightly to clean them, then slice in rings. Peel and cut the onions in thin strips. Wash the aubergines, cut them in rings, without removing the skin.
2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, and fry the onions.
3. When they are soft and transparent, put them in an ovenproof dish, with the aubergines in a layer on top. Season. Next put in the tomatoes, followed by the courgettes. Season again, pour in the rest of the oil. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.
The tian is a large square or rectangular ovenproof dish with quite high sides, from Provence. It is used to prepare all sorts of gratin dishes which are also given the name “tian”.
In the old days, socca vendors would go from one building site to another, transporting their precious wares on barrows. Perched on top of the vehicles there would be a large zinc construction housing a charcoal stove and the socca it was designed to keep warm. On hearing the cry: 'Socca, socca, caouda que bullie!' ('Piping hot socca for sale!'), the bochou (the boy on the site who had the job of running errands) would dart out and buy portions of socca for the workmen.
Strictly speaking, you need a copper plate of the size suitable for a wood-fired oven in order to be able to make socca; but it can also be a success when cooked at home under the grill in a baking tin.
oz / 125 g chickpea flour
1. Put 9 fl oz / 25O ml of cold water into a bowl. Mix well together, the chickpea flour, the olive oil, and the salt. Beat well to ensure that there are no lumps.
2. Strain through a strainer into a bowl.
3. If you should happen to have a wood-fired oven, pour the liquid on to a lightly oiled copper plate or griddle 20 inches / 5O cm in diameter and 1 inch / 2 cm deep, and bake in a very hot oven.
To make socca at home without a wood oven, pour the liquid into an oiled baking tin, making a layer of no more than 1/8 inch / 2 to 3 mm, and put under a hot grill. Use a pointed knife to pierce any blisters which may form during cooking.
4. When the surface of the socca is well browned, even slightly burnt in parts, remove from the grill, cut into squares, and serve immediately with lots of fresh black pepper.
Pictures - P.Riley