I have lived in some pretty amazing places before. One of them being the South of France. I know right….not too shabby! There are so many things about France that make you fall in love with this country. The gorgeous Bougainvillea that trellis the coastline for miles, or the dazzling Mediterranean water the color of aquamarine. Hands down, the big draw for me was the food. Now don’t get me wrong, the French really love their dairy, but I was able to find some vegan yumminess there too.
Panelle are the southern siblings of a street snack called panisses in southern France, and are made by cooking chickpea flour and water into a stiff paste before plunging strips of it in oil until they sputter, puff, and turn a nutty golden brown. In Sicily they often layer the freshly-fried panelle between slices of bread to create a delicious, economical sandwich; in Nice they sprinkle them with sugar just as often as with salt. And while the chickpeas alone lend a full, hearty flavor to these fritters, I also like to think of them as a blank canvas. Here I’ve added rosemary for a delicious woodsy fragrance, but I imagine you could be as creative as you want with these, experimenting with all kinds of nontraditional herbs and spices. The only thing that’s obligatory is to serve them hot and crisp, straight from the fryer.
cups (250g) chickpea flour
3 cups (750ml) water
1 rounded teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
olive or vegetable oil for frying
lemon juice and freshly-ground black pepper, for serving
Oil two large baking sheets and set them aside.
In a medium heavy saucepan, whisk together the chickpea flour, water, salt, and rosemary until completely smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of polenta or a thick porridge, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously to get rid of any lumps, then quickly pour the mixture onto the baking sheets, dividing evenly. Working quickly, spread the mixture out, smoothing the top as best you can, to a uniform thickness of 1/8-1/4 inch (4-6mm). Let cool completely.
Using a sharp knife, cut the firm chickpea mixture into triangles or rectangles 2-3 inches (5-7cm) long.
Heat 3/4 inch (2cm) oil in a deep, heavy skillet until it registers 375F/190C on thermometer, then fry the panelle in batches, turning occasionally, until golden and slightly puffed, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. You can keep them warm on a baking sheet in the oven while frying the remaining batches.
Just before serving, sprinkle with lemon juice and pepper. Serve immediately