Day Thirteen – England, Slovenia, USA, Algeria, Ghana, Germany, Serbia, Australia

Finally, England’s day of reckoning had arrived. No more excuses, no more platitudes or attempts to apportion blame away from where it lay. It was time for a full English breakfast and a walk with the bulldog.

Having scoured the Internet for something suitable a la Slovenia, I came up with a jolly nice little dandelion salad, which accompanied the lamb kofte rather well. Somehow, it felt appropriate to offer pleasant, tempting yet ultimately sideshow dishes to accompany good solid English faye and so it was to be. Pecan pie bringing up the rear proved to be a leitmotif for the USA’s somewhat tardy name on the scorsheet for the day and whilst I was going to resist the temptation to quote, I could not resist – “The French surrendered early, the Americans arrived very late and we are left to fight the Germans”.

So the Eiswein met the Makroud el Louse, (see my previous entries for this delicious almond tease from Algeria), barbecued king prawns and tuna steaks shook hands with some excellent Margaret River Chardonnay from Western Australia and Serbian rich sausages did justice to the Marston’s Pedigree.

Well done, England, (and the USA, Germany and Ghana) – you will need all that true grit to face Joachim Loew’s pretenders on Sunday. (By the way, well done the USA for scoring. Better late than never as I can now watch the whole game on Sunday afternoon!)

Day Twelve – Mexico, Uruguay, France, South Africa, Nigeria, Korea, Greece, Argentina

In view of the enormous task which lies ahead, today’s blog will be written in the future, present and past, as there has to be considerable planning. Eight nations to be catered by and just a few short hours in which to accomplish this mammoth task. And no mammoth.

Three Latin American countries gave me the idea to try to make one composite dish, so I elected for some rather excellent beef from Argentina, to be served with Tuco Sauce from Uruguay and refried beans and cheese from Mexico. Let’s see how we get on.

Had some rather nice Nigerian bananas for breakfast and  discovered a rather good recipe for banana bread, so if Nigeria get through…

Thank God for tacos and sour cream. That’s lunch sorted out. Might just sneak a quick glass of Chinon from the fridge. One of my favourite ‘little’ wines of France and delicious when served with goat’s cheese and green leaves on a warm summer’s day. Which is what we have. Today.

So we’re left with South Africa, Korea and Greece. I have some splendid taramasalata and houmous available and a Greek salad with the beef would go down rather well. Might just slip some Korean Bibimbap vegetables and rice in and wash it all down with a lovely Steendrift Sauvignon from the Cape. Yep, that’s it!

Day Eleven – Portugal, PR Korea, Chile, Switzerland, Spain, Honduras

My turn to keep the faith today, at home on my own, so it required a Herculean effort not to degenerate into convenience and lack of input on the worldwide front.

I am very fond of Portugal, though my attempts at dishing up anything remotely authentic had so far run simply to that for the last match. However, if I say so myself, the Piri-Piri sauce was legendary and looked out at me from inside the fridge, as if to say, “Go on, you know you want to…” I resisted. So it was the turn of tuna, a dish which had so far been conspicuous by its absence. Flavoured with cumin, it turned out to be the perfect lunchtime dish – not too heavy and served with Honduran coconut bread, provided an ideal accompaniment to Portugal’s 7-0 thrashing of the PRK. Evidently some of their players have seized the opportunity to disappear into the vastness of Africa, thus avoiding the unnecesary and some would say, tiresome trip home this week. I also stole half a glass of Chilean Sauvignon from the fridge.

We carried on with our attempts to eat ‘in order’ today and so the evening’s delights consisted of hot chorizo with tomato salad, Emmental, olives and roasted peppers, followed by more sweet coconut bread, sweet mango sauce and Rioja Reserva. Arroz con Leche brought up the rear, a kind of Honduran rice pudding.

Day Ten – Slovakia, Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, Brazil, Ivory Coast

I decided to look forward today, rather than back and as a result, the mouth-watering prospect of an encounter with Brazil filled me with inspiration to cook. So I sat back and watched as Lynfa baked up a storm for both today and the rest of the week. By lunchtime, the kitchen resembled a battlefield, where the main weapons had been flour. And sugar. And an unbreakable devotion to the Vatican. (Apologies to Messrs Monty Python and the writers of Sliding Doors. On second thoughts, no – I am not going to apologise to them).

Slovakian Lokše, (potato cake) matched up rather well with Paraguayan Asado, (beef steak) and corn on the cob, both barbecued and washed down with Chianti Classico from Frescobaldi.

The evening’s fayre demanded more from the barbecue and I was rather grateful that the weather had improved sufficiently for my outdoor efforts. However, not knowing what we were going to be faced with, we had already prepared what turned out to be a delicious Galinha com Creme de Ervilhas, a Brazilian chicken dish served with cheese and peas. (Paul Whitehouse, eat your heart out!). Did some rather nice vegetable skewers, though, with more Paraguayan courgettes, mushrooms and peppers.  Cracking New Zealand Pinot Noir made it an evening to remember, though as it turned out, one for Kaka to forget, even if saying his name takes us back to primary school.

Day Nine – Netherlands, Japan, Ghana, Australia, Cameroon, Denmark

Phew! This is becoming difficult. Not the menus, but supporting England. How did we follow last night’s abysmal performance with a culinary fest suitable for the six nations on display? This is how we did it;

Danish bacon sandwiches for breakfast at least restored some of our morale. Thick and juicy, served with Lurpak unsalted butter on fresh bread. No sooner was that over with, than we had to press on with a light lunch of exotic fruits and a selection of Dutch cheeses – Leerdammer, Gouda and Edam. Not wishing to deny ourselves the pleasure of an accompanying wine, we opted for the remainder of some rather splendid Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2009 from Australia’s Barossa Valley. Not quite ready yet; I prefer the 2008.

The evening called for a Pacific Rim Fusion Spectacular, but we weren’t really quite ready for that, so we opted for Japanese Tiger Prawns, served with aromatic rice, followed by succulent lamb chops served with our own barbecue sauce, fresh mango and Angove’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

Day Eight – Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, USA, England, Algeria

England’s next foray into the melting pot of South Africa 2010 looked like a meat-fest without equal. Some of Europe’s happiest sausage eaters were on the menu for footie and the BBQ, so it required a little more imagination than I had really planned for. Electing to produce a ‘menu in reverse’ paid off in the end, as I could feel a kind of ‘processed meat deluge’ about to hit CM1.

English asparagus performed very well, along with some hard flavoursome Tilsiter cheese which made a very good alternative to parmiggiano and balsamic vinegar. Bockwurst served with kiseli kupus from Serbia (sauerkraut) and American deli mustard, washed down with Boddingtons’ Bitter were followed by Makroud el Louse almond biscuits, (again!) and Slovenian almond and chocolate bars, served with Eiswein.

Day Seven – Argentina, Korea, Greece, Nigeria, France, Mexico

A wonderfully entertaining day brought goals galore on the footie front. At the same time, French and Argentinean wines flowed, though some of the national menus were proving quite challenging as we settled into Round Two of the group stages.

Aperitifs of Nachos and chilli dip went surprisingly well with Cotes de Provence Rose.

Barbecued lamb steaks, marinaded in red wine served with feta cheese and chilli bean salad, accompanied by Argentinean Malbec from Goyenechea were followed by Korean Pears and Nigerian Papaya fruit salad.

Day Six – Honduras, Chile, Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, Uruguay

Nothing could have prepared us for the results on Day Six of South Africa 2010, but at least we were ready with the food!

Spain and Switzerland provided the food, in the styles of: Roasted Peppers in Olive Oil and Patatas Bravas served with anchovies and Manchego cheese; Bratwurst mit Rosti, all washed down with Vina Tarapaca Reserva Chardonnay 2008 from Chile and the remarkable Pizzorno Don Prospero Sauvignon 2008 from Uruguay. This small country of less than 3.4m people has not only produced a great footballing side, led by none other than my old United mate Diego Forlan, it has also become of the rising stars of the wine world. Look out for some of these amazing wines.

Pudding was provided by Coconut Bread from Honduras with Moscatel de Valencia on ice.

Day Five – Brazil, PR Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal, New Zealand, Slovakia

To celebrate the arrival of one of the tournament favourites, Brazil, we had to go the extra mile.

An aperitif took the form of Cloudy Bay Pelorus 2001, served with slivers of Saeng Sun Jim, (Korean Braised Sea Bass); Brazilian Bistecca de Porco Frita, (pan fried on the barbecue pork steak), served with a wicked Portuguese Piri-Piri sauce from the ‘old country’; Slovakian Bublanina, (bubble cake), and more lovely fresh fruit, this time from the Ivory Coast.

Day Four – Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Italy and Paraguay

So, into the start of the second week at South Africa 2010 and further challenges abounded. We went with delicious seafood sushi accompanied by Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita 2008; Smoked Danish Bacon Steaks in rich BBQ sauce, baked potatoes with matured Leerdammer cheese, mango in balsamic vinegar with Castel del Monte 2006 and fresh fruit dusted with Fairtrade Chocolate.

The evening brought us Caldo de Zapallo Tierno, a rather tasty courgette and cheese soup from Paraguay.