Okay, so where did we leave off on the honeymoon story? I believe we were back in Spain. Ahhh, Spain, where the weather was beautiful, my language skills were abysmal and where Mark adopted my rabid shoe lust. Well, Spain came and went far too quickly for me. Not for Mark though, he was counting the seconds until we arrived in London to actually witness his soccer team play, in the flesh.
So you can imagine what happened when we arrived at our hotel to find the soccer tickets had not arrived as promised. I get a little woozy just thinking about it. The hotel I mean. As Mark reeled from lost ticket agony, I was reeling from the stench being emitted from every nook and cranny of our hotel. Was it the dark brown stain covering half of our hotel room floor? Was it the rotting grout in the bathrooms? Or was it 12 day old curry left under someone's bed? Who can know for sure. It was a mere 10 minutes after setting foot in our London hotel room that Mark and I turned to each other, grabbed each other's hands, interlocked fingers, stared deeply into each other's eyes and simultaneously said, "I need a drink".
Lucky for us I had made a reservation a month earlier at Moro. Moro was my reason for going to London. I stumbled across the first Moro cookbook on what I still remember fondly as my most fortuitous cookbook shopping excursion to date. I had never heard of this Moro place, but the photograph on the cover of the book intrigued me. Did you click the link yet? No? Shame on you. Here's another opportunity for you to redeem yourself. See, it's an old photo of a fishmonger. How very charming - no? The photographs inside the book are equally charming and bucolic, all slightly grainy without looking styled at all. It looks like real food. Long story short, I purchased said book, I made a handful of recipes from said book, I now adopt a dreamy faraway look in my eye whenever said book is mentioned. A reservation there was a no brainer.
Moro was mere blocks from our hotel, which I had no idea when I booked the stinking rat trap. It didn't take us long to get there, but it was a few hours early for our reservation, and come to think of it, we weren't hungry anyway. We slipped into the bar next door which I highly recommend, although I have no idea what it's called. I want to say it's something brutish like the Butcher Shop... but I honestly can't remember. We'll call it Shangri-La for now, because that's what it felt like. I was already happy as a clam as we elbowed our way to the bar, me anxious to melt those horrible hotel memories from my mind, Mark hoping to kill time until he received word of his lost tickets. Imagine my delight when the bartender asked what size I'd like my wine to be? In the UK you can order a large glass of wine! And that's exactly what I did. Mark, on the other hand, was not offered a choice of sizes for his beer, but as you can see, it hit the spot nonetheless.
Shortly thereafter we were ushered to a tiny outdoor table at Moro where Mark quietly sobbed into his beer about his lost soccer tickets and I danced quiet and tiny dances of joy over my 7 Meze plate.
I'm not that heartless, I shared my meze.
I'm sure you're wondering what those tiny little salads are all over that plate? I can't remember them all, but aside from the usual tabbouleh and fried eggplant there was also a beet and yogurt salad and something I can only guess was pistachios and cardamom. I've heard from people that their meals at Moro were a disappointment after using the cookbook. To them I can only say 7 Meze Plate. It was one of the finest meals of my life.
We stumbled back to the apartment that night, Mark grateful that he'd received word that the tickets, which incidentally were an absolute genius wedding gift from some friends, would be waiting at the stadium for us; and I grateful for the alcohol inuring me to the torture that was our hotel.
The next morning I showered, as I do every morning. I'm not sure I opened my eyes the entire time. I even accidentally dropped my conditioner on the bathroom floor and was so mortified by the filth that I could not bring myself to retrieve it, instead choosing to endure the discomfort of dry brittle hair for the remainder of our trip. Now it should be said, I'm fairly well traveled. I'm flexible and reasonably undemanding when it comes to accommodations. But holy shit. Fifteen minutes in that shower brought me to tears. No really, ask Mark. I stormed into our room, my wet hair wrapped in a towel, half dressed in pajamas, half wearing whatever I found hanging out of my suitcase. I thrust my feet into the nearest shoes and stomped down the three flights of stairs to the front desk. And I lost it. I told the poor man behind the front desk exactly what I thought of his horrible horrible crumbly, misrepresented online, stinky hotel. I won't repeat my exact words because I still find it hard to believe that me, Ms. Non-Confrontational, found those words and allowed myself to foist them on someone who I can't be sure deserved them. I returned to our room and we decided it would be best to leave for breakfast straightaway.
You'll be happy to learn, I'm sure, that despite my poor behavior, no one in the hotel saw fit to lay waste to our belongings, as I was so sure I deserved. We made it to the soccer game that afternoon, which I believe Mark said was the happiest moment of his life.
The next morning as we were leaving our hotel for the day we witnessed another hotel guest berating the very same man at the front desk whom I berated. She stated, much more coherently than I, that the hotel grossly misrepresented itself online. And then she did something I never would have dreamt to do - she demanded that the man call around, find her a new hotel room and pay for it! Ohhhh, would that I had cojones of steel like this woman. I was awestruck. It was our last night in the hotel, so we decided to suck it up and stay. Still though, that woman was fantastic and I think of her fondly still.
How does this bring us to falafel you might ask - well, in a very roundabout way. The falafel recipe was the first one I tried from the Moro cookbook. Therefore, this falafel recipe led in part to our trip to London. Because of this falafel recipe Mark and I were able to find comfort from the tiny missteps we suffered on the trip in one absolutely phenomenal meal.
I now know that prior to the moment I tried this recipe I had never had truly wonderful falafel. This recipe is dense with greens - so much so that you have to add a little elbow grease to form those little patties. It's fragrant with spices and the texture is rich and nutty. My favorite things to pair it with are yogurt mixed with garlic and salt, sweet and spicy peppers, tomatoes, and cabbage slaw. Just shred a small pile of cabbage and toss it with lemon, mayonnaise and a little garlic. All wrapped up in a fresh pita of course. And then turn your back forever on that stuff out of the box.
Adapted from Moro by Sam and Sam Clark
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (do NOT use canned - horrible results)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped fine
1 medium bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 - 1 1/2 tsp ras el hanout, or a combination of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and little cayenne
1/2 onion, shredded
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying
1 - 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
Drain and rinse beans well and place half of them in large pan, fill with fresh cold water and bring to boil. Simmer for 5-10 mins until tender, skimming off any scum. Meanwhile, place raw beans in food processor and pulse until more or less smooth. Transfer to mixing bowl and repeat the process for the cooked drained beans. Add garlic, fresh coriander, parsley, cumin and coriander seeds, onion, flour, egg and baking soda. You can use a food processor for this too. Mix well and season to taste. Shape into small patties. Make sure edges do not crack.
Fill a frying pan about an inch deep with oil. Heat oil and when it is very hot but not smoking, fry the falafel in batches until golden brown on both sides. Taste the first one out once it cools to make sure you don't need more salt, before you fry the whole batch. It's easy to under salt these, they should really deliver on the flavor. Drain on paper towels. Serve with the condiments mentioned above.