Hello. My name is Johanna and I am a recovering Eurovision addict. Or that's what I thought. I am, in fact, a continuously relapsing Eurovision addict. For much as I growl each year that the voting is rigged, the music is not what it used to be and the whole thing is just farcical, guess where I'll be on the appointed day the following year? In front of some television or other.
We weren't allowed to watch much television when we were growing up, in fact, for large stretches of my life my parents didn't even have a TV... but Eurovision night was when we were allowed to stay up late and watch that abominable show. And it's not even like I could be patriotic and support my own country, because as you may have noticed, Austria only participates about once in a decade (we're just too crap, or maybe our taste in music is too sophisticated... Mozart, Haydn... erm... Falco - you know where I am coming from). So over the years, I have seen some pretty appalling shows, I think I only ever missed one, which was when I was living in Mexico.
I have also experienced these cursed nights in the most surreal of settings: one year, in my early student days, we all dragged sofas out onto the pavement, placed a TV set on a window sill facing outwards (no flatscreen TVs back then, either, it was a whopper of a set which didn't live to see the next morning, as some half-drunk moron tried to adjust the antenna yet again and the thing came crashing down on the pavement) and enjoyed the show al fresco - and tons of passers-by joined in and purused of our generously stocked cool boxes which were, in fact, laundry baskets and cleaning buckets filled with ice cubes.
Another memorable night was in an old, derelict tramway shed transformed into an alternative music venue in a rather seedy part of Vienna - I went there with a friend (female, straight) only to find out (and she might have known that but not let me into her little secret) that it was going to be the largest turn-out of Vienna's gay community. I had the best time of my life: there was a live act of the Geschwister Pfister, a brilliant Swiss comedy act consisting of a husband-and-wife team and her gay brother-in-law... who went on to do the live commentary for the eurovision contest on stage. The whole thing was followed by a dance-off to the hits and flops of past Eurovision years which turned out to be a right hoot!
This year, try as I might, I cannot not watch the event, seeing that we have his royal poofness Graham Norton doing the commentary, plus one of my all-time favourite voices (however much of a waste of talent she will be on that stage) is competing for France... it is, of course, Patricia Kaas. Ever since I found that out, I had long-standing arrangements with my daughter to see the show together, from the comfort of my bed, bag of nachos on my lap, spreading crumbs everywhere (actually, only on my hubby's side because he is a partypo**** and refuses to watch with us). But alas, she has better things to go to, so I will be off to a friend's where my desire to watch the show will not be met with complete disbelief.
The plan is for the two of us to come up with finger food that represents some of the participating countries. While I haven't made my mind up about what I will be making (suggestions welcome), this will be on the menu definitely, as my homage to Turkey. I made these lightly spicy lentil koefte a while back when I started my lofe-affair with Middle Eastern cooking and discovered the beautiful book Turquoise. As for the rest, I am thinking of some mini-quiches (France), a tortilla of sorts (made by my friend who is Spanish), some falafel with hummous (might be able to pass it off as Israeli), some blinis with caviar (Russia), some gravlax with home-made dill & mustard sauce (Sweden)... if you have any suggestions for the more "exotic" countries like Armenia or Lithuania, Rumania or Azerbaijan where, to be honest, I haven't got the faintest idea of their national dishes, please send me some inspiration!!!
Red lentil koefte*
40 g ghee (or butter)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
1 tbsp tomato purée
½ tsp harissa
1 heaped tsp cumin
100 g red lentils
350 ml water
80 g bulgur
2 tbsp mint leaves (finely sliced)
juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, freshly ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 baby cos lettuce
6 spring onions
Heat the ghee/butter in a frying pan, add the shallots and cook until soft and fragrant, but not yet browning. Stir in the cumin and fry until fragrant, add the tomato purée and harissa.
Stir in the red lentils, pour in the water and cook, covered on the lowest possible heat for 10 minutes, then add the bulgur and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the mint, season with salt and pepper.
Leave to cool, then form the lentil mixture into small patties with a little dip in the middle on the top.
Slice the spring onions, greens included, combine with the lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Wash and dry the cos lettuce leaves and cut into bite-sized chunks that can serve as a scoop/spoon-like base for the koefte.
Arrange patties on the salad leaves, spoon over the dressing and serve.
* adapted from a recipe in Turquoise