New Year, New Start?

by Sam Bilton on March 24, 2013 No comments

Three hundred years ago we would have been preparing to welcome in the new year in England. Up until 1752, 25 March was the day that the legal new year started in the Julian calendar. It roughly coincides with the Spring equinox and new annual contracts would have been arranged between land owners and labourers on this day. In the church calendar it is the day on which Mary is believed to have been visited by Gabriel and is when the Feast of Annunciation is celebrated (also known as Lady Day).

Right now in Britain it feels like we could start 2013 afresh. Winter seems reluctant to release it’s grip with temperatures still skirting above freezing in many parts of the country. The continuing cold weather is putting a strain on our gas resources with the energy providers predicting rationing. The economy seems equally frozen with no prospect of any growth on the horizon. We are in the doldrums.

It would be easy to become disheartened with life in these present conditions, but I remain confident that Spring, if not economic recovery, is just around the corner. In the meantime, I cook to keep my spirits lifted. So when I was researching the meaning of Lady Day I was delighted to read that in Sweden they eat waffles on this day (much in the same way as we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday).

Waffles are far from a new phenomena in Britain. They are thought to be derived from wafers offered at the Eucharist in place of bread and have been made in England since the twelfth century or earlier. Whereas wafers are made with an unleavened batter waffle batter contains a raising agent (e.g. baking powder or yeast). It is thought this was done to differentiate the sacramental from the secular which meant lay people could make them.

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To make waffles at home you will need a waffle iron. Fortunately, you can now buy waffle makers (see image above) which is what I used for the recipe below (food writer Rose Prince prefers the former). I don’t normally subscribe to the American penchant of mixing sweet and savoury flavours together but I think a bit of crisp, smoked, streaky bacon works well here. It took a while to turn all the batter into waffles so perhaps this recipe is best reserved for leisurely weekend breakfasts. That said, the waffles will reheat well in a microwave if you want to make them in advance (although they won’t be crispy). They also make a great dessert with some ice cream.

Happy New Year!

Banana Buttermilk Waffles with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Makes 16 – 20

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Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 250g self raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 30g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 small ripe bananas (about 150-175g peeled weight)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300ml buttermilk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 25-50g melted unsalted butter for greasing
  • 8-16 rashers smoked streaky bacon (depending on how hungry you are)
  • Maple syrup and butter to serve

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Method

  1. Place all of the ingredients except the butter for greasing, bacon and maple syrup in a blender or food processor. Process until you have a thick pouring batter.
  2. Pre-heat your waffle maker or waffle iron according to the manufacturers instructions. Lightly grease the hot waffle maker/iron with melted butter using a silicone brush. Do this each time you make a batch of waffles.
  3. Pour 2-3 tbsp of batter into the centre of each waffle grid (for my waffle maker it was 3 tbsp although the manufacturer only recommends 1 tbsp which I didn’t find sufficient). Spread it out slightly with the back of the spoon (although not right to the edges) then close the top of the waffle maker. This will make the the mixture spread to the edges. Try not to overfill the waffle maker or else the mix will ooze out of the sides. Cook according to the manufacturers instructions. For my waffle maker this was 4 minutes.
  4. Keep the waffles warm in a low oven (say 50-100°C) while you cook the remaining batter.
  5. Serve the waffles with a knob of butter and drizzled with maple syrup. Top with grilled crispy bacon if desired.
Sam BiltonNew Year, New Start?

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