No time for an intro, you know the drill by now…32 teams in the World Cup, 31 national dishes roundly excoriated by yours truly.

Week three of the tournament brings us groups C&D. Check out Group A&B here. Thoughts and prayers.


Argentina – Meat
It’s fair to say that much like us Brits, the Argentinians have a penchant for food cooked over fire. But this is not cremated sausages at your weird Uncle Alan’s house, for these tango and football obsessed legends like to do things a little differently. The asado is a BBQ grill set up for indirect slow cooking of such delights as beef, pork, or mutton. Popularised by Argentinian Gaucho, the nomadic horsemen of yore, and a staple of any social gathering henceforth, the asado is built to take on huge cuts of animal, cooking them to perfection over a course of hours or even days. Once ready, you can expect to be served a sweat-inducing, gut punishing 800g of meat – the equivalent of two rugby balls. If you do ever get to go to a traditional asado, take a cushion. You can sit comfortably while waiting for the food and use it as a breakfall for the inevitable stroke suffered following its consumption.

Saudi Arabia – Kabsa
From the early surprise package of the World Cup comes this delicate rice and chicken dish, made using a blend of spices including nutmeg, cumin, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and dried lime. Meant to be eaten in a communal setting with the right hand only (the left hand is traditionally used for ablutionary purposes), those in the know say this delicacy simply must be accompanied by a fiery Shattah – a super spicy sauce made by pounding fresh red or green chillies and leaving them to ferment before mixing with salt, olive oil, herbs, and spices. With a sauce that fiery, your left hand’s going to get plenty of use.

Mexico – Mole
Less blind subterranean mammal and more rich, dark, savoury, sweet sauce, Mole (pronounced Mol-ay) may resemble something you’d accidentally slide through in a home for the elderly about to be shut down by the Care Quality Commission but looks can be deceiving. I must confess to a passion for Mexican food and this unctuous underdog is so complex in its makeup – a traditional Mole can have upwards of 20 ingredients including cinnamon, peanuts, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, raisins, chillies, and cloves – that it is the subject of myriad wildly contradictory origin stories, none of which I nor Wikipedia can or will substantiate. Just enjoy it for what it is, ok?

Poland – Carp in Aspic
A dish with its origins in the Middle Ages – one that has seemingly benefitted from few updates or enhancements since that time – our Polish friends and cousins like nothing better than to serve up this jellied fish dish as traditional Christmas fayre. The carp is chopped and lightly cooked before being placed in a savoury jelly or ‘aspic’ – comprised of egg, fish stock and gelatine – and left to set in the fridge. The dish needs only a simple sprinkle of vinegar or squeeze of lemon to be ready to serve, providing possibly the most unwelcome Christmas day surprise since finger sucking ‘Dirty Den’ served divorce papers on hapless wife, Angie in front of 30 million viewers (Google it, gen zedders!)


France – Pot au Feu
The country that gave birth to modern gastronomy needs little to no introduction; for this veritable Galapagos of gustation is a butter-enriched powerhouse when it comes to fine fayre. Even France is fallible though – the author will take a firm pass on horse, cat-litter-tray-pungency-level-cheeses, that weirdly bland garlic sausage you get in Sainsbury’s, snails or anything tartare – but my eggheaded critique will take little sheen from the already phosphorescent Gallic crown. While most would expect to see croissants, profiteroles or coq au vin at the top table, I have pipped for Pot au Feu – the true foodstuff manifestation of liberté, egalité and fraternité. Meaning ‘Pot of Fire’, this is a hearty yet humble sharing soup consisting of beef and loads of veggies, slow cooked for five hours and served with mustard and crème fraiche. Merveilleux!

Tunisia – Couscous
The food so nice they named it twice! This fine grain made from semolina is a savoury all-rounder – a pair of safe hands with almost any accoutrament. Traditionally served at celebratory events such as weddings or funerals where people throw dried cous cous at the wedding party or pelt the coffin with the giant variety, cous cous is… Sorry, I must interject. I had to invent those last ‘facts’ as unfortunately for both writer and reader it really doesn’t get much more interesting. If cous cous were a person it would be Peter Andre. Outwardly likeable and relatable but ultimately banal when dwelt upon for too long. Let’s just move on, shall we?

Australia – Pavlova
From the drongos that brought us ‘third wave’ speciality coffee, cork hats, yutes and Harold Bishop, we have our very first sweet entry, and what a dessert it is! The etymology of Pavlova is a source of great controversy, with many claimants to its creation, not least from those pesky New Zealanders, who many say were first to lay cream and fruit upon great hefts of meringue (although the lawyers for Eton Mess would surely be all over this?). Culinary historians insist that the cake itself was created to mark the visit to Australia of legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova in the 1920’s, yet a delicious and rather satisfying shroud of mystery remains.

Denmark – Stegt flæsk
When it comes to choosing certain national dishes, I have, admittedly, made some objective decisions and used creative license, yet if you really want to know the bona fide delicacy of a nation, who better to ask than the country’s own inhabitants. And so when the pig loving Danes were asked to vote for their national dish in 2014, they collaboratively conjoured classic pork recipe stegt flæsk. A treat for the soul and for lovers of alliteration, this pork, parsley and potatoes dish is a centruries old delicacy and a cheap eat, ubiquitous in restaurants across the country. The hog is of the belly variety, roasted until crispy, served with boiled new potatoes and lavished with a final flourish of parsley sauce. Simple, delicious, the Danes have spoken.