“Coques” (singular: coca), in Valencian, are an entire division of “flat breads” typical from the area. They’re sometimes called “tortas” in Spanish, but most commonly referred to as “cocas”.
There are many versions: sweet or savoury, subtle or brutal. They’re often very seasonal: there are cocas for specific times of the year, festivities and events. They can also vary a lot between regions; seasonings and toppings might combine to make a very different result from what you’re used to, even if the base or the appearance are very similar.
Coca de Fira is traditionally eaten during the annual fair (fira, in Valencian) in my hometown. It is a really substantial dish, and a serving can keep you going for a long time, so it’s very suitable for browsing the goods on display and haggling for hours! (specially when November turns out to be cold, which happens from time to time).
This year marks the 600th anniversary of the fair, and my mum was telling me about all the celebrations she was attending to mark the occasion, and how of course they were celebrating with Coca de Fira. I got “a bit” jealous and so I decided to bake my own.
It is a bit difficult to achieve the exact coca you would get if you were in my hometown, because their cured meat has a very particular flavour provided by the seasoning, and also because they use a special type of mushrooms that I’ve never seen in London, but in the best spirit of the dish, I focused on getting a good base, and replaced ingredients with the closest I could get. And the result made me incredibly happy!
This is fun to make (spiralising things is so much fun), and fairly quick to prepare. Plus it’s quite filling AND lightweight – courgettes are basically water!
You will need a spiraliser, or you can buy pre-made courghetti, although I’ve never tried those and I’ve no idea how bad or good they are!
Ingredients (for two people)
Two medium sized courgettes (about 15 cm length)
3 or 4 garlic cloves
One 400g tomato tin
Optional: Parmesan cheese and butter (leave out if vegan)
Start by washing and spiralising the courgettes. I make one pile per courgette, as it makes it easier to separate the portions later
Peel and chop the onion and garlic cloves
Put oil on a pan, and start frying the onion and garlic
In parallel, wash and chop the parsley, and add it to the pan as well
Once the onion is pretty soft, move everything to one side, like in the picture
Add some more oil, and set to a very high heat
When the pan is very hot, add the contents of the tomato tin to it, and fry on a very high heat for about 1-2 minutes or until you think things are going to burn! Stir frequently during this time. The goal is to get the tomato to lose its acidity
Now reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes
Optional: add a dash of butter now to get a deeper body. Mix it well until it dissolves.
Slowly add about 200ml of warm water to compensate for the evaporation.
Add a tablespoon of paprika, and mix well
About 10 minutes in the simmering, try a bit of the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste, mix well and try the sauce again. It might still be a bit acidic, but don’t add sugar – just wait for longer!
Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, you might need to wait for longer. It usually pays off to wait as the flavour gets more developed and interesting. So you might need more than 20 minutes.
Once the sauce is ‘done’, turn the heat off.
To cook the courghetti, add some oil to another pan, and set on a very high heat.
When the pan is very hot, add a ‘pile’ of courghetti, and stir continuously. We don’t want anything to get stuck, and we want the cooking to be homogeneous. We also don’t want the courghettis to get too soft, so that’s why we need the heat to be very high, so they cook outside but not too much inside. If the heat is too low, they will start releasing water, and the result will be too “liquidy”.
Once one pile is cooked, place on a deep bowl, and go to step 15 to cook the next, until all have been cooked.
Pour the sauce on top of the cooked courghetti
Optional: add a good dose of grated Parmesan cheese
Add some pepper
Optional: add a dash of the best olive oil you have
Tricks and tips
I used this smoked paprika my mum brought me from Extremadura, a region in West Spain, renowned by the quality of their paprika!
If you have the chance to shop at a Spanish grocers, “Pimentón de la Vera” is the type of paprika you want to look for.
Also, depending on your spiraliser, you might get very long ‘courghetti’ so it might be interesting to cut the piles a few times with scissors before cooking them, so they’re not like 3 meters long and impossible to eat with a fork.