I have a thing for Eurovision parties.
Is it because of my European background? The fact that I embrace sequins and big hair? Was I over exposed to a wind machine at an early age?
I’ve never quite worked it out. But at some point it became a thing for me and I’ve subsequently felt compelled to throw a party in honour of this landmark event ever since.
And while everyone else is focused on the singing (or lack thereof), I’ve always been firmly focused on the food.
This year I approached things a little differently. Each of my guests was allocated a country and instructed to bring food or drink from that country. I put a lot of thought into the allocation – giving friends a country where we’d travelled together if possible. That’s how I ended up with a dining table practically groaning under the weight of the collective culinary output of the EU.
As host I decided I would represent Austria (the host of this year’s Eurovision) and Australia.
First up was a heady pot of glühwein, perfect to counter the early winter chill in the air. I cooked the wine for hours with cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and slices of fresh orange. Intoxicating.
I couldn’t ignore the national dish of Austria so Wiener schnitzel was always going to be on the menu.
That’s where mum stepped in with one of her pearls of wisdom (I must add it to the list).
Thou shall not fry meat right before thou has guests arriving!
No one likes to enter a room filled with the lingering scent of fried meat but nor does anyone enjoy a stale schnitzel. There was only one thing for it mum declared, she would have to cook it herself and then drop it over right before my party. Bless you mum.
Representing the Aussie contingent were mini meat pies (a party just ain’t a party without party pies) and mini prawn cocktails. I filled shot glasses with shredded lettuce, avocado, dill, added a dollop of mayo and wedged a fresh prawn on top.
Representing the other end of the spectrum was my four-tiered homage to our sweet history, made with lamingtons, Iced VoVo’s, Tim Tams, Anzac biscuits and Caramelo Koalas. By the way, has anyone else noticed how flat the topping on Iced VoVo’s has become?
I also snuck in some of this new fandangled Vegemite chocolate – a salty-sweet concoction that polarised my guests. I don’t like Vegemite but I liked this chocolate – strange, no?
Katia brought a selection of traditional Italian sweets from her homeland and my cousin Paul rocked up with a box of delicate pastel macarons to represent France – tres bon!
Then my food blogger friends from Sydney Food Crew turned up with an impressive haul. I allocated Iceland to Christine because I knew she’d think laterally and I wasn’t disappointed. Jamie Oliver’s Icelandic inspired potatoes (of sorts) were amazing, and I like to think my post on Icelandic food may have been an inspiration.
George had Belgium so brought with him a comprehensive waffle kit including fresh cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries. Wow!
More cousins arrived. Nick who is renowned for bringing generous hostess gifts came laden with not one but TWO trays of galaktoboureko, my absolute favourite Greek dessert of all time. I’ve even been known to eat it for breakfast. It’s a delicious semolina custard surrounded by layers of filo pastry and drenched in sugar syrup. It’s sensational.
Cousin Stef was allocated The Netherlands and brought a pack of beer called Hollandia.
Thinking along the same vein was Richard who brought Budějovický Budvar beer from the Czech Republic.
Whilst I appreciate that the boys were bang on brief, I’m not a beer drinker myself so I was delighted when Anna turned up with all the elements to make a rocking sangria – reminiscent of our trip to Spain many moons ago.
Similarly I once spent a fun long weekend in Slovenia with Emma (we slept in a gaol but that’s another story). So she turned up with a delicious local dish of potato dumplings mixed with fried bacon and sheep’s cheese.
Nearby Hungary was represented by Natalia who sourced some of my all time favourite pastries kürtőskalács. These are not only addictive but such a talking point. A good ice-breaker for any party.
Maz and I spent a week in Poland last year (a culinary adventure in its own right) so there was only one country she could represent and she didn’t let me down. Maz tracked down fresh pierogi from an authentic Polish restaurant and served them pan fried with accompanying bacon, onion and sour cream. I was instantly transported back to Warsaw and our first experience of these doughy delights.
My lovely sister-in-law Soph was flying the Turkish flag and brought Turkish bread, dips and melt-in-the-mouth Turkish delight.
Sharmini grappled with Finland and did a stellar job with her meatballs, or lihapyorykoita, which are quite similar to the Swedish variety.
I knew Peter had spent time in Russia so that was a no brainer. He went to a Russian deli and loaded up on pungent dried fish, cheese, rye bread and salami, all direct from the homeland. It took some convincing to get the crowd to try the fish but Peter did a great job spruiking the offering.
Cheryl arrived with two options from Malta – tasty little pastizzi and a few packets of Maltesers. Maltersers from Malta – get it?!
You’re probably wondering how we fit in time to watch Eurovision at all with all the eating and drinking going on. Well we managed, and armed with paddles and microphones it was quite the immersive experience.
Australia didn’t win in the end but we did pretty darn well to come fifth for our first (and probably last) entry into this landmark competition. While it might be the end for Aussies in Eurovision, it certainly won’t dampen my enthusiasm for the most entertaining and pyrotechnically-enhanced show on earth.
Stay tuned for next year’s party!