Finally the sun has started to shine in London. In true British style I left my flat this morning with a t-shirt, shirt and pullover and my winter coat. I did not have breakfast; rather I’ve been up since 5am working. Blogs do not write themselves. I’m thinking about todays shoot as I leave the flat. Waffles. A thing I have been accused of talking too much of. Not the food, more in ‘ing’.
I’ve been to Belgium a few times, but my most memorable trip was for a friends 40th a few years back and 20 of us went to Burgee. A beautiful city of medieval architecture encased in a city wall and canals. I remember just how cold it was for that January trip. Perhaps that’s why I wore so many layers today when actually it was warm enough in London to just wear a shirt and pullover. I had lunch with an 80-year-old friend yesterday, the sort who is very correct in his terminology who informed me that ladies wear jumpers and gentlemen wear pullovers. Ironically today’s multi coloured effort was purchased in Burgee.
What do I know of Belgian food? Well, the stereotypical bits really, moules and frites with mayonnaise, beer blonde with many fruity assortments and waffles. Hergé – the author of TinTin was Belgian. I don’t have a dog called Snowy, but let my adventure begin.
Wafflemeister; who I visited today outside South Kensington Underground Station to find out about Belgium food is one of those success stories of British business I love to hear about. With four stores in central London and branches in Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur, they must be doing something right. I meet Alex the owner and we chat about Belgian food, I see pictures of waffles with lots of toppings including mini-Oreos on the wall and I’m drooling. We spend time talking about how the waffle recipe which is a family secret developed in Belgium in the 1950’s and that the waffle dough is handmade in Belgium and frozen before being transported to the UK to be baked and served. True Belgium food, from Belgium in London. I’m watching as customers come to buy waffles and I hear stories from Alex about just how popular they are. He’s an easy going chap, not one to boast, but by the number of people wanting his product I can see just how popular they really are. I’m told one Indian businessman sends his driver to Wafflemeister to buy a few boxes of waffles before he fly’s home from Biggin Hill airport on his private jet. How another customer who was a patient in a hospital purchased 40 ‘sharing’ boxes – that’s 160 waffles, one can only assume nill-by-mouth was over, or is BUPA discovering a new dessert trolley? I’m hungry and my camera crew arrives, just at the point where Alex is telling me that the waffles are about 320Kcal per 100g. Not bad. Halal friendly waffles too. Alex is really excited about his business, he shows me the gelato he sells, you know the ice cream that is no just ice cream, it’s thicker and he calls the flavor ‘Speculoos’. A sort of gingerbread and cinnamon flavor unique to Belgium and the surrounding countries that’s made into animal shaped biscuits for Christmas time. All I need is the waffle.
It’s time to make the waffles. Alex lets me do it. His electric waffle maker is nice and hot and it’s as easy as use. I made the waffles and noticed that the pearl sugar in the waffle dough melts and lubricates the waffle iron. I try it with the Speculoos flavoured gelato and I now understand Alex’s excitant. This man has made waffles more than something to put chocolate and cream on. I’m told I’m eating Liége waffles, charisterically a richer, denser, sweeter and chewier waffle and the translation from their proper name of gaufres de chasse means ‘hunting waffles’. Made from yeast dough, which is an adaption of French briôche dough. Either way, whatever they are – they are special. A chewy sweetness of a high rigged waffle that’s perfect sweet or savory yumminess.
Over the years many have asked me about cooking waffles in the AGA. Today I finally found out how to successfully achieve it at Divertimenti, and to a great standard too. All you need to do is oil and heat the waffle iron on the floor of the AGA Roasting Oven, add the batter, close and cook on the Roasting Oven floor. The floor is the same temperature as the super hot Boiling Plate, not only do they spread, cook and rise but the pearl sugar oozed and bubbled from the sides as it cooked. I take it out of the AGA, turn it onto a plate and serve it with mini Oreo cookies, hundreds and thousands and mini marshmallows. No Belgian waffle (Liége or otherwise) is complete without Belgian chocolate and I melted this in a ramekin on the AGA top plate. Chocolate melts beautifully here in no time at all, it won’t seize and by golly did it taste good.
I always live by the motto that it’s good to learn something new every day. Today I learnt that 1) Wafflemeister waffles are the correct food for anytime of day, 2) waffles don’t last very long when they come out of the AGA when one has a film crew around and 3) I should never underestimate / get excited by the British weather as I was soaked to the skin on my way home.
Next stop in my World in One City project – Austria. I wonder, did Maria feed the Von-Trap children waffles? Perfect not only for eating in a large house, but also to have in a picnic up the hills too. I’m sure a domestic goddess like Maria had the aforementioned BUPPA dessert trolley as one of her favorite things.