Monday, June 19, 2006

The Sunday of Green & Gold

While I care very little about contact sports in general, I do enjoy watching the World Cup games. The most memorable for me was setting the alarm clock with my PoPo (maternal grandmother) in order for both of us to get up and watch the final at 3:00 a.m.; that was 1978, and coincidentally Argentina was the champion.

Regrettably, I have grown up a rootless global villager so I cheered for whichever team that played well or offered eye candies. I supported Argentina in 1990 - that had nothing to do with Maradonna's looks. In the last World Cup, I supported Spain – they had the best looking players (no, never understood the Beckham magic) until they dropped out, then I supported the champion worthy Brazil.

Australia came to soccer late (football in Oz refers Aussie Rules); the Socceroos had a low profile in and out of the country. That is, of course, history – the Sleeping Giant has woken up and now joined the rest of the world in enjoying this skilful and fascinating game.

The composition of the Socceroos has also changed, reflecting the country in 21stC. The National Team makes me proud to be occasionally refered to as Australiana, almost emotional in fact. We have a Brett Emerton, a Tim Cahill playing along side one John Aloisi, and a Marco Bresciano. The Cahill in question is half Samoan; John would have been Gianni if his ancestors had stayed where they were, his physique tells the story of many Australians today - his decidedly handsome southern Italian face is complimented by his considerable Australian height. Captain Mark Viduka could have represented Croatia in Germany..the Socceroos unite the nation more than any other Australian sporting hero, and there are plenty.

So I had a real dilemma watching the match, Australia vs Brazil, on Sunday. Firstly, the sea of Green & Gold in the stadium, colours of Australian sports, cheered for Brazil! I was a little confused for a minute; for the match, our boys opted for a much more complexion flattering navy.

The first half was nail biting, the commentators said Australia was playing "de igual a igual" (as equals) with their formidable opponent. I was excited whenever Australia looked like she was going to score yet I didn't want the brilliant Brazil to lose. I had to cheer for Brazil the way they scored in the second half but I was proud of the overall performance of our boys. Guillermo was greatly amused, to him and his compatriots there was never a question of which team to support.

Even our youngest niece who just turned 2 on Thursday learnt about "Argentina" and "futbol" at the jardin (kindergarten). All the schools have put up a big screen in the assembly hall so the kids and the teachers could watch and cheer for the Argentine team. In fact, the whole city grinds to a halt for the 90 odd minutes. The Argentines take their futbol both very, and I mean very, seriously and personally.

The next Argentine match is on Wednesday afternoon; to get away from the deafening noise and the commentators' "Gooooooooooooool" (goal) when the team scores; I have decided I would follow the example of my Australian friend here and do some baking in the kitchen. So I present to you my Gooooooooooooooey Chocolate & Walnut Brownies:

110g soft unsalted butter
185g dark chocolate
110g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
185g dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 23x23cm square tin or a small oblong brownie tin with baking parchment, bottom and sides.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan or in the microwave. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together. Measure the flour into another bowl and add salt.

When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a little. Then beat in the egg mixture. Now fold in the flour and nuts. Stir to combine smoothly, beware not to over mix. Over mixing would cause the gluten to toughen which compromises the resulting texture. Pour into the lined pan and bake for 25min-35min. The baking time is only a guide, so much depends your oven and whether the size of your brownie tin.

Once I had this brownie in an oven for over 40min. But don't worry, after 25min you can open the oven door and check doneness by touching the top lightly. When it's ready, the top should be slightly paler; also it looks like a thin speckled surface has formed. At this stage the middle should still be dark, dense and gooey.

If you do need more then 25min, keep checking until you get this effect and then take it out immediately. The brownie will continue to cook thus dry up as it cools so you do need to be alert.

Leave it to cool completely in the tin, then peel off lining on the sides, cut into squares, and lift them from the lining at the bottom.

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