Saturday, July 10, 2010

And now for something completely different

The Greek football team traveled all the way to South Africa and tried their hardest to go through to the next round of the World Cup. Unfortunately, they didn't make it. It all came to a sad end a couple of weeks ago when we lost to Argentina. The Netherlands on the other hand are in the final. Hup Holland Hup! (Go Holland Go!).

Ever since I moved to Holland I don't only support my own country's football team but my adoptive one's as well. I'm becoming quite the fan. I love how these boys play ball. No, I'm not an expert, S. is. When the World Cup started, I had to be reminded all over again what an 'offside' is, who the men wearing those all-black uniforms and using a whistle are and why there is a big dot painted in front of the goal line.

My boyfriend was getting pretty angry with me each time I asked any irrelevant, to him, question during the matches but I did a good job at figuring things out in the end. So, after the first couple of weeks, I was the one looking forward to the next game.

I was cursing at the tv whenever a footballer was being selfish and didn't pass the ball, I shouted at the tv whenever the referee (yes, the one with the all-black uniform and the whistle) gave a yellow card to the wrong guy and I was celebrating by doing the winner's dance (um, you don't want to know what that is) whenever we won. I was also entertaining S., who was constantly laughing while witnessing my complete transformation to a proper football fan.
Well, there is another reason I like watching football. C' mon, what woman wouldn't enjoy watching cute guys running around all sweaty for an hour and a half. Isn't that why women watch sports anyway?

So, Sunday evening. The big match. The Netherlands against Spain. What a match that will be. If Holland wins it's going to be huge, naturally. The Dutch are immensely proud of their football team. All of Holland will be painted orange (the national color), vuvuzelas will be heard all the way to Australia and I will be celebrating along with the Dutch. Wish Holland good luck!

Watching a game of football can be quite a thrill. Especially when it's the final of the World Cup. That is as suspenseful as can get. So, instead of biting your nails or fidgeting in your chair nibble on some of these treats. I know I will.

Spiced mixed nuts with brown sugar and paprika and spicy, sweet popcorn cayenne, cinnamon and hazelnuts. You are going to love these. I assure you. The crunchy almonds, pecans, cashews and hazelnuts are covered in a blanket of spice and heat. This is a deliciously luscious, sticky, crisp, salty, fiery, fragrant snack.

Then comes the popcorn. Though this is no ordinary popcorn; this is popcorn revamped into a flavorsome, piquant, sweet and tangy gift for your taste buds. Dark brown caramel, hazelnuts and freshly popped corn all tossed together creating a crisp combination that tingles your mouth and makes you want more.

Give some to the demanding male population, otherwise known as your boyfriend's/husband's friends who will be flocking to your house to watch the game and these treats will surely keep them satisfied. Add a couple of cold beers to the mix and they'll all be set.

I love munching on these snacks while watching movies and they are perfect served at a party. You can't fill the small serving bowls quickly enough. Wrap them in some nice glossy paper or a cute box and give them as a hostess gift or take them to office. Just make sure you keep them hidden in your desk drawer otherwise everyone will want some.

Spiced Nuts
Adapted from epicurious

I used a mix of four kinds of nuts but you can definitely use only one kind.
In case you don't want pecans you can substitute with walnuts.
(Read this on how to store nuts properly)

Yield: 4 1/2 cups

2 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp salt
100 g light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp sweet paprika (preferably Hungarian)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
60 g unsalted butter
150 g unsalted blanched whole almonds
210 g unsalted blanched whole hazelnuts
120 g unsalted pecan halves
140 g unsalted cashews

Special equipment: hand held mixer

In a small saucepan, add the butter and heat over medium heat until it melts. Remove from heat and let it cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl, add the egg whites and salt and beat them with a hand held mixer on medium speed until soft and foamy. With the mixer still running, add the sugar in three batches and then add the Worcestershire sauce, the paprika and the cayenne pepper. You don't want the mixture to become too thick. It should have the consistency of lightly beaten cream.

Add the nuts and the melted butter to the mixture and stir well with a rubber spatula, making sure that all the nuts are coated well.

Empty the nuts inside the baking tray (which you don't need to grease or cover with baking paper) and spread them evenly around the tray.

Bake nuts on the middle rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, take tray out of the oven and, using a metal spatula, toss, stir and separate the nuts. Spread them evenly again and place tray back in the oven. Bake nuts until they take on a golden brown color. Be careful not to burn them.

Once ready, toss and stir the nuts and move them to a wire rack lined with baking paper. Spread them evenly and let them cool completely. The nuts will become crisp as they cool. Break up any nut clusters and serve.

You can store the spiced nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 to 1 1/2 weeks.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn
Adapted from Rocco DiSpirito

You can use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans or even peanuts for this recipe.

For a kid-friendly version just omit the cayenne pepper.

Yield: a big bowl of caramel popcorn

200 g unsalted blanched hazelnuts
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
2 Tbsp corn oil
220 g popcorn kernels
420 g sugar

Special equipment: small food processor

Put hazelnuts, cayenne pepper and cinnamon in a food processor and chop them finely.

Make the popcorn
In a large, high-sided pot, add the oil and one popcorn kernel and heat over medium heat with the lid closed. When the kernel pops, remove it from the pot and add the rest of the kernels. Put the lid on and shake the pot every minute or so while cooking. When there is no popping sound for a 5-second period then your popcorn is ready. Remove pot from heat and empty popcorn into a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and toss the popcorn.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Make the caramel
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat for about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and keep stirring continuously with a heatproof rubber spatula until the sugar melts and turns a light brown caramel color. Be very careful not to burn the caramel. Also be extremely careful because the caramel will be very, very hot. Don't try to touch the caramel with your bare hands at any point. Don't try to taste it!

Turn heat off and immediately add the finely chopped hazelnuts to the caramel. Quickly stir to combine. Don't stir too much, just enough to coat the hazelnuts.
Working quickly because you don't want the caramel to cool and harden, yet carefully because the caramel might burn you, add all the popcorn to the caramel. Stir well to completely coat the popcorn, pulling caramel and popcorn up from the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to break the popcorn.

Pour caramel corn onto the lined baking tray, spreading it evenly. Let it cool and sprinkle with a little salt. Break popcorn into bite-sized pieces and serve.

You can store the popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.


  1. Actually, Polish team did not even qualified to play in the World Cup this time. I was was watching the football match (Germany vs Uruguay) tonight, unfortunately Uruguay lost. Those nuts that you prepared are perfect for watching a football game. Pictures perfect, as always.

  2. Such great snacking ideas! I especially want to try the caramel spiced popcorn!


  3. Wonderful while watching football or doing anything really.

  4. Magdalena - yeah that was a good match. I wanted Uruguay to win as well ;)

  5. Great snacking ideas!! I love these ways to spice it up!

  6. Magda

    You make me chuckle with your enthusiasm for soccer! Good for you! At least you don't feel left out! Here too people are nuts for it, I mean, shooting at night after each game kind of nuts, all the cars outfitted with flags of favorite team etc; so glad it is over, we'll have a little bit of peace for a while; LOVE your nuts and popcorn! I could eat gallons of these spicy and sweet things, man they are dangerous for me!

  7. Oh, my...I have a HUGE weakness for All Things Caramel, and you have done a marvelous job with the nuts and popcorn. Want them!!

    I really like the sequence of six photos depicting the spicing of the nuts.

  8. only good snacking recipes! I don't even want to buy salted nuts at the sore!

  9. I am not a big fan of soccer but during the world cup might watch the game when Greece is playing. Thos spicy nuts sound like a great snack.