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Chickpea cake with carrot hummus

On Monday I had one of the first cooking classes of the new season and we made cecina, also known as torta di ceci, a Tuscan chickpea cake. My American guests loved it and gave me a lot of fresh new ideas about pairings and other occasions to use it beyond our usual street food approach. I realized how versatile it could be and a urge to make it again grew faster in me. So here I am today with a new version, partly Tuscan, partly Middle Eastern inspired.

Like a good thirty year old Italian girl extremely related to my family, until my new life as a single girl living on her own I had always lived at home with my parents and sister and grandma, sometimes I am almost ashamed to say this. Always with one small exception, 5 weeks in Pisa for a post-graduate course, in a small apartment without a kitchen but with a microwave. At that time I discovered the cecina, which in Livorno is named torta di ceci, chickpea cake. It became my main source of livelihood.

Do not call it cecina in Livorno, or they will refuse to serve you because they called it torta, simply. Seriously, I am not exaggerating. It is actually a cake made of chickpea flour, tasty and simple, showing the preference of Livorno and its people for straightforward and genuine food.

I was at the central market in Livorno, the heart of the city along with the port, and I asked for directions on where to eat a good torta di ceci. Everyone addressed me without hesitation to Gagarin, just outside the market. It is one of the last torterie, if not the last, that still serves only torta. Take a good look, because the door is so small that it can be confused with a house entrance, it is a little shop that serves the best torta you can imagine. They have been doing this for 52 years, and they just serve torta, you can trust them.

Despite this heavy Tuscan influence, every time I think of chickpeas the first thing that comes to my mind are hummus and Lebanese recipes, probably inspired by one of my dearest friends, Bethany, a real hurricane in the kitchen, who can create amazing dishes with just a few ingredients in addition to chickpeas. Her creamy hummus is the best I have ever tasted and… oh, her hummus balila! we devoured it at 2am in the morning, gathered around a happy table, armed with spoons and Arabic bread.

Then, another mental association. Whenever I mention hummus, I immediately crave for a carrot hummus I tasted the first and only time I’ve had the good chance to dine at one of Ottolenghi’s restaurants of in London. It was simply awesome.

I found a good recipe that really inspired me to make carrot hummus. It is a recipe developed by Hugh Fearnley-WhittingstallThe River Cottage chef. Carrots are first roasted olive oil and garlic, then pureed with tahine and lemon juice. Lemon – which I used instead of orange – refreshes the taste of carrots and is a perfect match to the cecina. Do not forget a generous sprinkle of za’atar.

Serve it as an appetizer, but believe me, this can be a well balanced and satisfying main course especially if combined with a raw fennel salad.

5 from 4 votes
Chickpea cake with carrot hummus
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 
Course: Vegetarian
Cuisine: Tuscan
Servings: 6
Author: Giulia
Ingredients
  • 200 g chickpea flour
  • 600 ml water
  • 12 g salt
  • 90 g organic sunflower seed oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Pour in the water in the chickpea flour, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps. When the water has been completely incorporated add the sunflower seed oil and salt.
  2. Let the batter rest for at least half an hour.
  3. Heat oven to 250°C, grease with oil a 25cm x 40 cm baking tin and pour in the batter into a very thin layer, up to 3 or 4 mm.
  4. Bake the chickpea cake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp and golden on the surface and still soft inside.
  5. Serve hot with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
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This Post Has 19 Comments
  1. One of my favorite foods! Your torta di ceci is very tempting and I really love the carrot hummus. You’ve just made me hungry!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Haha! A hurricane in the kitchen 🙂 Much to Chris’s dismay… well maybe after he’s eaten. Love a chickpea flan and after having tasted yours I can testify it’s delicious! x

  3. This looks delicious! I get a bit confused between Farinata, which is what my aunt from Bologna (who now lives in San Remo) calls this similar recipe and then Socca which is from Nice. Are they all the same dish? Love the carrot hummous idea too!

  4. This is so divine! I teach Ayurveda, the world’s oldest and most thorough science of natural medicine, and we use “gram flour” a lot – for baking, cooking, thickening, congealing, to replace eggs, to make a facial scrub, for massage therapies, etc. I’ve been looking for more “westernized” recipes to be able to share with my clients and students, and this one looks perfect – simple, quick, nourishing, and, best of all, Italian! Love the idea of carrot hummus. But I think I will serve the torta with homemade lemon curd for that dollop of sunshine.

  5. I just posted a green pea hummus on the blog today! I am anxious to try the roasted carrot hummus, and the little cakes look so simple and yet unusual. I have chick pea flour in the cupboard and never enough uses for it, thanks!

  6. I’m completely addicted to Ottolenghi right now and am trying lots of recipes from his Jerusalem book – bought a whole load of ingredients like zaa’tar a few weeks ago!

    The cake and the hummus sounds incredible, I might try it next weekend when I have some free time over Easter 🙂 I am curious to know why is called cake though as it seems very thin and no sponge-like?

    1. It is a translation from the Italian torta. They call it torta in my dialect even though it is really thin and not sponge-like at all, so I translated it as cake.
      Probably it is better defined as a flat flan of chickpea flour!

  7. So nice to have something interesting and different to look forward to. Can’t wait to try this, thanks for sharing.

  8. Chickpea cake is very nice and very fast, but 12 g of salt is too much for me,next time i ll put only half. Anyway I really like your blog.

  9. What an absolutely beautiful post Giulia, I am such a big fan of farinata after hearing about it and then tasting it in Genova. I’ve tried several recipes and haven’t quite mastered it, but have high hopes now that I’ve stumbled upon your site. One question – is the chickpea flour raw or roasted chickpea flour? Both types are sold in the Armenian market near my home but most recipes don’t distinguish between the two that I’ve found. Any advice? Thank you.

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