Friday, 29 May 2015

A Feast for Eurovision 2015

Dee – This is the first in what I am intending to be a yearly event to tie in with the Eurovision Song Contest, which I am a big fan of.  On the day of the contest I will put a menu together based on the cuisine of the host nation, so for this inaugural event, it was Austria.

The first thing to note about Austrian cuisine is that it doesn’t seem to be very well known outside of Austria itself.  I’d seen snippets of it on television programmes; the most prolific of which being the Great British Bake Off, which featured a Sachertorte as one of their technical bake-off challenges.  The Hairy Bikers also filmed there, and featured an amazing looking dish called Pinzgauer Karsnockern, which went straight on to my never ending list of recipes to try out.

There seem to be two different styles of Austrian cuisine; the fine dining of Vienna and the cities, and the more rustic cooking of the Alpine and rural areas.  In addition, there is a rich tradition of baking and patisserie similar to that of France.

In addition to the food, I sourced two Austrian beers, which are reviewed separately here:  A review of two Austrian Beers for Eurovision 2015

The three dishes I selected for the final menu were fairly quick to prepare, as I didn’t want to be caught out cooking once the song contest started.  Hopefully they will provide a good representation of Austrian cooking.

Starter: Schinkenfleckerl
Recipe from ‘Roast Figs and Sugar Snow’ by Diana Henry
When I first saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.  The trouble was, it consists of pasta, cheese and cream, so is not in any way low calorie.  Before attempting to cook it, I needed to find a suitable time to enjoy it so that I could burn off at least some of the calories.  In the end I settled for serving it in a small portion, as a starter, served according to tradition, on a bed of lettuce.
Despite all the ‘heavy’ sounding ingredients, the texture was quite light, and it tasted like a cross between macaroni cheese and soufflé.  The pasta used in the recipe is small and square-shaped.  I was planning to make it myself, but because of time pressure ended up using some lasagne sheets which I broke up into small pieces.  This turned out ok but I think I will take the time to make my own next time.

Main: Wiener Rostbraten
Recipe from ‘The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire’ by Time Life Books
The main course was a steak topped with slow cooked onions, which we served with cooked sauerkraut with shredded carrot and a gherkin.  It was simple to prepare and tasted great.

Dessert: Kaiserschmarren (Emperor’s Pancake)
Recipe from ‘The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire’ by Time Life Books
Named after Emperor Franz Josef I, this dish turned out to be more of a challenge than expected.  The pancake batter was exceptionally light, which made it difficult to work with, and it kept sticking to the pan, but eventually we gained control of it and managed to achieve the characteristic ‘broken’ effect.  It turned out to be quite a filling dessert despite the light texture of the raw batter.  It is traditionally served with a fruit compote, but we found it perfectly pleasant on its own.  I think next time we make it, I will up the quantity of the rum-soaked raisins, but it was still a very fine end to a great meal.

Soundtrack:  Eurovision Song Contest 2015
This year’s contest contained the usual plethora of big ballads, and it seemed more sedate than usual on the whole, but there were still some upbeat and poppy entries.  Israel’s entry, Nadav Guedj’s ‘Golden Boy’, which finished in 9th place overall, was a particular favourite of both Jay’s and mine.  I was confident of a victory for the United Kingdom but these hopes came to nothing when Electro Velvet ended up with an extremely disappointing 5 points.  Such is the unpredictable nature of Eurovision  Austria and Germany fared even worse, finishing with the dreaded ‘nul points’.  The winning song, ‘Heroes’ by Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw was pretty good though.
I’m already looking forward to Eurovision 2016.

For fellow Eurovision fans, I recently put together a list of my ten favourite songs from the contest, which can be viewed here:  My favourite Eurovision songs so far

For more Eurovision related food blogging, this is a great write-up of a vegetarian feast from Keep Calm and Fanny On:  A Little Piece

And for an entire blog dedicated to food and Eurovision, look no further than:  Don't boil the sauce

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