Matcha Waffles with Candied-Ginger Butter (or ginger whipped cream or maybe: ginger ice cream?)

In order to have waffles, you really do need a waffle iron. I know, because years ago when I moved to the UK from the USA I left my waffle iron behind and in the ensuing years I tried everything I could to make a waffle when the desire hit which it tended to do without enough of a warning to go out shopping for a waffle iron. Not that it would matter because waffles are not a part of British food culture (you won’t find one in a Full English Breakfast).

And yet, each time I came close to having a waffle I told myself: never mind; you’ll have a waffle next time we return stateside. But i always hit the ground running, and never managed that American waffle–even in the era of chicken and waffles–because there were always too many other things that I don’t have a chance to nosh in my UK home, too many meals to create with local ingredients for too many people to cook for–and then……too many (new and old) restaurants to try! Fine dining, taqueries, perfect burgers, and Chinese noodle joints, bread from Tartine bakery and pretzel croissants; how was I supposed to find time for a waffle?

Then, so predictably no matter how how I vowed this time was different, I was never able to fit the darned thing in. Sometimes I gave up before I even started packing: so many other things to bring back: dried chillies, Chinese mushrooms, New York bagels, pickle relish, Creole mustard, Tartine bread, oh the list goes on, a chocolate babka or two…..Sometimes I had even purchased a waffle iron at a rummage sale or a thrift shop, but actually wedging it into my suitcase without veering into overweight luggage fees, bested me each time. There was NEVER room in my suitcase for a big old waffle iron.

And a good (read: old fashioned, heavy, unwieldy) is not the most practical thing to shlep back when you might only get the craving a couple of times a year.

For American waffles, the heavy irons really are the best; no lightweight teflon–they just don’t give the crunch that hot metal on batter does.

I don’t know why waffles aren’t more popular in the UK; legend has it that they were the result of a Knight returning home from battle and, finding his wife gone from the house (out doing errands), he sat down to wait for her. Okay: he sat on a bench and didn’t look at where he was sitting, because he plopped right down on top of the flat breads/cakes his wife had cooling on the bench. AND because he was wearing the chainmail that Knights are famous for, they left big fat indentations when he sat down; when he got up they were still there, and voila! A waffle was created!

So, you know, with their history of Knights–the Realm, the Round Table, and so forth–you might think it would be a sort of traditional food, in the same way that steamed puddings are, either sweet or savoury. Or any of a zillion pies. (Or even fish and chips, whose history leads us back to the Jews of London’s East End, then Europe for its (Belgian/French) fried potatoes and the Netherlands where Portuguese Jews had brought their fried fish traditions which leads us to the Portuguese sailors who likely found and brought back the battered frying of fish (Japan? Tempura?) from their world explorations.) Anyhow, you’d think that a Knight sitting on a hot cake would make a wonderful traditional dish. But no.

In all my years of living in the UK I’ve not eaten a waffle though I know that London now has a very chic and trendy 24/7 restaurant named Duck and Waffle that at any given time offers waffles with both confit and fried duck, and at breakfast/brunch also offers Belgian waffle treats. Waffles might pop up at a street fair, or as a dessert. Maybe. But even if it does, they are not part of the culinary vernacular though interestingly it IS part of the actual vernacular of the people: to waffle means going up and down on a subject, ie back and forth, ie the ups and downs of a crenelated waffle surface!

So anyhow, since the good people of this island are not making waffles at home, its not easy to buy a waffle iron: and if you manage to find one, it is usually the deeply indented waffles known as Belgian waffles. And, I have found, hideously expensive.

In any event, that was not the kind of waffle I wanted: I wanted an American waffle, the kind my mother made when I was growing up or that we ate when we went out to any number of breakfast joints. And to get that result I needed a waffle iron was deep but not as deep as a Belgian waffler, whose surface had never met teflon but was pure metal and needed to be brushed generously with oil to keep the batter from sticking, the waffle iron I left behind when I crossed The Atlantic, the kind sold in every thrift shop, garage sale and discount store from east to west coast USA. I could get an adaptor plug I vowed, and if that didn’t work, maybe I would find a non-electric waffle iron, one you place over a hot flame and do your waffling over the open fire.

But you know, how long could it go on? My life was frittering itself away (note: not waffling, frittering) and if I didn’t pay attention I’d never have another waffle ever. At least another homemade waffle just the way I like it (which, as it turns out, is so many different ways: but that is the subject for another posting).

Then I saw that our local Lidl (German, discount) supermarket which is all over Europe was selling waffle irons at a very reasonable verging on cheap, price. Even cheap i hemmed and hawed. Then i bought one.

This one is lightweight, easily toted off the shelf, heated, waffled, then put away again not long afterwards. Its easy to clean as well. The waffles come out of their hot grid like a dream, even if the surface is so nonstick as to be as slippery as an ice rink. And its wonderful to be reunited with my waffling ability, and to know I can whip up a waffle for those I love, or for myself, within minutes. Its not the big deal mess all previous waffle irons have been.

But here is the deal: the waffles that come out are, while delicious, quite thin. I’ve tried everything to make them thicker but the batter just runs out the side. I thought the waffle iron might just be cheap, it being Lidl and all. But you know, the little machine works like a dream, never breaks down, and turns out delicious waffles reliably. Also, the waffles are delightfully shaped like five heart shaped wedges, so you can eat a whole one or cut/tear them into lovely little heart shapes.

Filed in my mind under curiosities, I was bemoaning my flat waffle situation on Facebook when a friend, Sonoma caterer and consultant Kristi Loype Hallamore, chimed in: Marlena, Norwegian waffles are thinner than any other waffles, and they form five heart shaped wedges–your waffle iron must be Norwegian! Which, for some inexplicable reason, makes me feel very happy: my waffles are neither too thin nor too thick, they are exactly the way they are meant to be!

Green Tea (Matcha) Waffles (Norwegian or otherwise) with Candied Ginger
This makes 3-4 small flattish waffles using my waffle iron; it will probably make about 2 waffles in a normal bigger waffle iron. Enough for two abstemious waffle-eaters
1/4 cup (four heaped tablespoons) plain yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup (four tablespoons) milk or water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
3-4 heaped tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour (about 4 oz/125 g)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon (heaped if you like matcha a lot–I do!)

Whisk together the yogurt, egg, milk or water, vegetable oil, salt and sugar.
Stir in the flour, baking soda and matcha and mix well. You want the consistency of a pancake batter, so if its too thick add a little extra water.
Brush the waffle iron surface with oil, then close up and heat the waffle iron. Many have a little red button to show that its one, and a green light to show that its ready, or something similar. Anyhow, YOU know when its ready:
Open up the lid when its ready and ladle in about a quarter of the mixture, right into the center of the waffle iron; it will spread out as it cooks.
Close the lid gently, and let it puff away; you can lift the lid a minute or two into it to see how far along the waffle has gotten to: you want a light brown colouring of the surface, not too dark but not too light. Remove from the waffle iron using a fork to loosen it before you lift it out.

Top with either thin slivers of butter to melt in and a sprinkling of chopped/diced candied ginger, or spoon lightly sweetened whipped cream over the top, again with the chopped candied ginger. Alternatively, you can sprinkle the chopped candied ginger on top of the batter before you close the top of the iron so that the ginger bakes into the waffle itself, and…..dare I say it: top the little matcha-ginger marvel with a small scoop of ginger ice cream?


Leave a Reply