Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for farinata, balsamic onions and asparagus

Bread made with chickpea flour is one of my favourite things on earth (the dhokla Bobby’s in Leicester has been a lifelong addiction), so when I was introduced to farinata, one summer long ago in Tuscany, I welcomed it with open arms and mouth. The two are very different, though: traditionally, farinata is unleavened and has a crisp edge and a soft centre, while dhokla is so aerated it is practically a sponge. Here, I have created a bridge between the two using baking powder to give my farinata a little bounce.

Farinata with balsamic onions and asparagus
English asparagus should be hitting the shelves with a vengeance around about now; if not this week, then next. You’ll need to make the batter the night before you cook it, but it’s only a five-minute job. A 40cm x 30cm tin is ideal here, or use two smaller baking tins. If you’re unsure, pour up to 5mm into one tin, then size up another based on how much batter you have left.

Prep 5 min
Rest Overnight
Cook 50 min
Serves 4-6

300g gram (chickpea) flour
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
80g black olives, pitted and halved
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp chipotle chilli flakes
Fine sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
250g asparagus, woody ends snapped off

The day before, put the chickpea flour in a bowl and slowly whisk in 450ml water, until you’re left with a smooth batter. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave on the countertop overnight.

The next day, heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9 and line a 40cm x 30cm tray with baking paper and brush with oil.

Pour three tablespoons of oil into a nonstick pan and fry the onions for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until soft and dark. Add all but a handful each of the tomatoes and olives (save these for decorating the top) and the balsamic vinegar, chipotle flakes and half a teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for another six to eight minutes, until the mixture is jammy. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Uncover the batter bowl and whisk in two tablespoons of oil, the baking powder and a teaspoon of salt. Stir the cooled onion mixture into the batter, then scrape out into the prepared baking tin. Jiggle the tin to settle the batter, lay the asparagus in lines across the top and dot around the reserved cherry tomato halves and olives. Drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 15 minutes, until deep golden and firm to the touch. Eat straight away, or at room temperature and within a few hours.