Tonight is the first Eurovision Semifinal (or rather, it is when they broadcast the first semi-final in Australia), and it is our tradition to watch both semi-finals each year, for the simple reason that so often the true gems don’t get through. Of course, by ‘true gems’ I mostly mean ‘songs with the highest number of costume reveals, Eurovision key changes, bizarre dancing, violins and ridiculous outfits’, not ‘really good songs’, but if you are looking for really good songs on Eurovision, you are missing the point, I think.
Anyway, we tend to have friends around to help us appreciate the Eurovisual madness, which means I tend to make desserts… generally by dashing into the kitchen in between acts, or when I am bored by an act, to find the next ingredient or stir something in. The technical difficulty was increased by the fact that I really didn’t plan ahead, and was thus missing a lot of ingredients and making things up as I went along and just randomly using things I found in the fridge.In twenty-second bursts.
The following is my attempt to reconstruct what I did, because these brownies actually turned out surprisingly well, and E. wanted the recipe. Just for fun, I’m writing up the recipe along with my Eurovision commentaries, because that’s how I experienced it…
Your Shopping (or Fridge) List225 g chocolate, of which 100 g should be Lindt Intense Orange chocolate 40 g butter 125 g mascarpone 2 eggs (finally, an ingredient which isn’t guesswork!) 1 cup raw sugar (this is also definitely true) 2/3 cup flour 1/3 cup almond meal 2 slices glacé pineapple, chopped 1/4 – 1/3 cup glacé ginger, chopped 1/4 cup glacé cherries, chopped, with the proviso that all these 1/4 cups were, ooh, look what I have half a packet of, wonder how this would go? smarties, to decorate, because this is Eurovision and one must be colourful.
Now what will you do with it?
First, switch on the Eurovision semi-final, pausing to notice that Montenegro has a Trojan Horse for no readily apparent reason, and needs to wash his hair. Though the whole Darth Vader Euro Rap thing is strangely compelling. Consider the need for dessert. Become distracted by Iceland, who are actually singing something folky which you might listen to on purpose and without the context of Eurovision! It even has violins!
Get out a cookbook and decide that you need chocolate cake or brownies, but that you can’t be bothered creaming ingredients today. Note that Greece has provided the first knickers reveal of the evening, and is doing weird robotic pseudo-Irish dancing. Become bored by Latvia and wander out to see whether there is enough chocolate. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
There is no cooking chocolate. Gather together 200 g of random chocolate found in various parts of the fridge and pantry, including a block of Lindt orange chocolate, break chocolate up and put in a saucepan, and then get completely hypnotised by Albania, who is not using any modality you have ever heard before but does have rather an amazing voice.
Flee the bagpipes of Romania and look for butter. Realise that there is only a tiny bit of butter, no margarine, no milk, no sour cream, and that oil probably won’t work for melting with chocolate. Decide that mascarpone is a lot like butter, and put it in the saucepan with the chocolate and butter to melt.
Experience the next three songs in a haze of dashing in and out of the kitchen to check on the chocolate (Switzerland isn’t as pretty as he thinks he is, and Belgium has a see-through dress. Finland has a cello, but is sadly still uninteresting.).
Once the chocolate has melted, let cool briefly, break two eggs into the saucepan and stir them into the chocolate mixture, while rejoicing in the extreme campness that is Israel’s song.
Mix in the sugar, while pondering San Marino’s song, and the very obvious rhyme for ‘Facebook’, then stir in the flour and almond meal. Dash out to watch Cyprus, feeling glad that there is no baking powder in this recipe, and that you can therefore keep on abandoning it. Note Cyprus’s excellent dancing, very pretty lead singer, and ‘la-la-la’ chorus, and suspect that it has the winning formula for Eurovision. Which is pleasing, because it’s a fairly entertaining song.
Become enthused about Denmark’s costume, then lose all interest in the song, and go out to see what’s in the fridge that might belong in an orangey brownie. Discover previously forgotten stash of glacé fruit!
Fall completely in love with the Russian babushkas who are all singing and want to feed you piroshkis. Decide that they are the clear and natural winner of this year’s Eurovision (the crowd seems to agree). Gaze in horror on Hungary, who appears to be doing something rather disturbing with his hands, and whose jacket has clearly been in some kind of accident, and return to the kitchen to chop up glacé fruit and add to the brownie mixture.
Peek out of the kitchen and discover that Austria has glow-in-the-dark pole dancers and a song that is probably in German, but sounds very rude if you are an English speaker. This is clearly not accidental. It is, however, strangely fascinating, and you waste several minutes trying to work out if they really are speaking German. Return to the kitchen, and decorate the brownies with colourful smarties!
Bake brownies for 20-25 minutes. While they are baking, appreciate Moldova’s rather adorable costumes, and speculate on just how much red cordial someone fed Ireland before they went on stage. Quite a lot, we think.
Let cool in tin for ten minutes, while you watch the re-cap and speculate on who ought to go through to the finals.
Eat warm with ice-cream, while dissecting the evening’s performance. Wonder just how much alcohol to put in tomorrow evening’s Eurovision Dessert, and whether Ken will make an appearance this year…
Well, I think I’ve just demonstrated that you can put almost anything together and call it a brownie and it will work. Though the mascarpone was a nice touch. I think sour cream would also work well. I think the dairy-ishness was rather a feature of this brownie, so I wouldn’t go dairy-free with it; I might put in a mashed banana or two instead of the eggs (I think this would work, flavour-wise), along with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, but if I did this, I would not want to continually interrupt the recipe, or the baking powder would lose its zing.
I am pretty certain that you could make this brownie with all almond meal and still have it work; certainly half rice flour and half almond meal would be safe. Or you could leave the almond meal out entirely if you are avoiding nuts.
You really can flavour this brownie with anything you like, either by using flavoured chocolate or by mixing in dried or glacé fruit, nuts, white or milk chocolate chunks, chopped chocolate bars or marshmallows or anything else that takes your fancy. I suspect Columbine toffees would be sort of awesome, if the underlying chocolate was fairly plain.
It’s not fair, you know – in terms of texture, this is definitely the best brownie I’ve ever made, and I really don’t know for sure how I did it. This recipe is a pretty good estimate, but it is still an estimate. Which will teach me not to measure as I go, I suppose…
This time last year…Farmers’ Market Kitchen Chemistry: Anthocyanins and Blue Food Recipe: Chocolate, Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes