Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eurovision Weekend- Part 1

More homesickness as it was Eurovision Song Contest Weekend.

Eurovision reminds me so many British things. Saturday nights at my Nan's during the early 80's, being able to count to twelve in French by the age of seven (but not knowing eleven or nine), begging my Mum to let me change my name to Suzi G (after Bobby G of Bucks Fizz fame...I probably shouldn't be telling you all this). The 80's turn to the 90's when we choreographed a routine to the British entry rather than studying for our finals and I start planning elaborate buffets based on the host country's cuisine. I like to think my Eurovision Party is a bit of an event, although I'm still annoyed my friend Mark, a Eurovision nut, won't come because I don't take it seriously enough.

For the uninitiated, the Eurovision Song Contest is an institution. Started in 1956, it's either a chance for a variety of countries to showcase their songwriting skills or a chance to get together with your gay mates and eat a Ukrainian themed buffet. Despite the "Euro" in the title it's open to all of the countries that are part of the European Broadcasting Union rather than the European Union, so this explains the inclusion of Russia and Israel. Lebanon is actually rather interested in taking part, but their unwillingness to recognise Israel as a state is stopping them. Given that this year's Israeli entry was about a suicide bomber it's probably for the best...

The show has changed over the years and the Orc rock of last year's Finnish winner Lordi has opened the diversity gates. 60% of this year's semi-finalists were hoary-old rockers from the former Soviet Union. I counted eight pairs of leather trousers and more curly perms than the Bigg Market on a Saturday night.

Ah yes. The semi final. Eurovision is so popular these days that there's no way all of the countries who want to play can, so a semi-final was introduced in 2004. There are now 14 guaranteed places in the final, going to the Big Four (UK, Ireland, France and Germany) and the top ten from the previous year. If you're not a Eurovision fan and find the main attraction interminable, the semi final probably isn't for you...Luckily Bri indulges my passion and I got to see both.

You can't have Eurovision without food though. I've finally found a good butcher, and so I have been cooking meat for the first time since I got here. I needed to counter-balance the European-ness of the TV with something really Australian, so we had lamb and rosemary snags (Australian for sausages) from TJ Quality meats on Darling Street. It's a Demeter certified, organic butcher (more on this soon) and the sausages were damn good. I served it with my favourite lentil salad.

This is a really versatile dish and you can perch some griddled chicken or salmon on top, serve it as part of a salad selection, or with sausages like I did on Saturday. All quantities are up to you; you cannot be prescriptive about lentil salad.

The basics:
Some little green French lentils (as many as you need)
Half a head of garlic
A bay leaf

Rinse the lentil, cover with boiling water, add the garlic and a bay leaf and boil until cooked. Should take about 15 minutes. Rinse when they're done as I find lentil water a bit unappealing and drudgy. Fish out the garlic and bay leaf. Moisten the lentils with some of your best olive oil.

The dressings:
A white onion, diced finely or some shallots or scallions
A good handful of rocket or some leafy herbs. Parsley and mint have worked well for me in the past
A couple of tomatoes, skinned, seeded and sliced
Some little slips of roasted red pepper
Something creamy, like some nice fresh goats curd, ricotta or feta. I used some marinated feta from Meredith Farm and it was sensational
A little chopped chili if you like
Olives, capers or gherkins

Once the lentils are ready, just mix in whatever you have handy from the list above. I didn't bother with any olives, capers or gherkins as I wanted the little dots of feta and red pepper to be the stars. I toned down the chili too, although I'd use more if I were using a blander cheese like ricotta. A swish of red wine vinegar might be good at the end too to make more of a dressing than my olive oil alone.

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