Pizza with faina

Pizza with faina

One of my favorite food-related scenes in movie history, is the moment when father and son go into a restaurant and share a bottle of wine and a mozzarella, in The Bicycle Thief. We recently watched Gigante, an Uruguayan/Argentinian film, that I promise to stop talking about soon. In one scene, our hero goes into a restaurant and orders pizza with mozzarella, a beer, and faina. First of all – it reminded me of that scene in Bicycle Thief to such an extent that I was sure it was a tribute to it. Second of all – what is a faina?!? I was so intrigued that I researched it the second the movie was over. Faina turns out to be a Uruguayan version of socca…a chickpea flour-based bread. It’s mixed with olive oil, herbs, sometimes parmesan, and tons and tons of pepper. And then it’s baked in a hot oven, till it’s crispy outside, though still dense and soft on the inside. And then it’s sliced and each slice is eaten on top of a slice of pizza. How strange but tasty does that sound!

I had to try it. I like making pizza anyway. It’s fun and easy and everybody in my family happily eats it, which is always a pleasure. I’ve been trying for some time to make pizza with a thinner, crispier crust – it had always eluded me. It worked this time, though…I used less yeast, more water and olive oil. The dough was quite sticky, but not hard to work with. I put lots of herbs in the dough, and I topped it with a roasted red pepper tomato sauce, dollops of goat cheese, and lots of fresh rosemary.

And the faina. It seemed such a strange idea to me at first, but when I took one bite, it all made sense! The texture was nice with the pizza, but more importantly, it seemed like a vehicle for the pepper and rosemary…flavors that are nice with the pizza, but tend to get distracted in the sauce were distilled into a perfect form.

Here’s The Bouncing Souls with The Pizza Song. When I was in my early twenties I lived across the street from these fellows, and they lived a few doors down from the legendary Tata’s Pizza. Is that what they’re singing about here? We’ll never know.
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Parsnip and ginger pakoras

Parsnip pakoras

Parsnips and ginger taste so wonderful together. So bright and sweet and fresh! Here they find themselves grated, thrown together in a sea of chickpea batter, and dunked unceremoniously in hot olive oil till they crisp up nicely. I was once again plagued by indecision on how exactly to spice the batter. Coriander, obviously, because it has it’s own distinctive bright sweetness. And I’d thought of adding cardamom, which I also think of as sweet, but I decided to add things that balance the sweetness rather than add to it. So a tiny bit of cumin and tumeric, earthy and pretty, a very small, very finely diced garlic clove, and a pinch of cayenne for heat. In the end a nice combination, with all the flavors blending to a harmonious whole, just as they should. This isn’t a traditional pakora batter – I added some white flour, and I used beer rather than water, to make it nice and bubbly. The pakoras turned out perfectly crispy on the outside, light and crunchy. The inside was a little denser and softer than it tends to be in restaurants, but it seemed like a nice contrast. I wanted the batter to be vegan, but I think if I’d added an egg, the inside would have been less dense. I’ll try it sometime and let you know!

Of course you have to have a dipping sauce with pakoras! I wanted something sweet/spicy/savory/tart, (don’t I always!) So I made a kind of smooth chutney of apricots, raisins, tamarind, shallots and garlic.

Here’s MF DOOM with Coriander.
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