As football fever kicks in and excitement levels rocket, this is no time to forget about food. Whichever team you're cheering for during the Fifa World Cup, we guarantee that you'll enjoy the experience all the more when surrounded by an array of delicious snacks. Here are our foodie suggestions for some of the most eagerly anticipated of the early matches.
June 14: Russia vs Saudi Arabia
It seems only fitting to offer a nod to the host nation and settle down to watch Russia take on Saudi Arabia today with a Soviet-inspired snack close at hand. If you want to go the simple, thrifty and indeed traditional route, then look no further than the humble sunflower seed. Something of a national passion in Russia, semechki (sunflower seeds fried in their shells and salted) are sold at stadiums across the country and make excellent football-watching fodder, being both moreish and easy to eat. There is, however, a certain skill to doing so: toss the seeds into your mouth, crack open the shell with your teeth and spit it out, before chewing on the tasty kernel within.
Should you fancy something a little heartier, kulebyaka is the way to go. After all, according to the Fifa website, these hand-formed Russian pastry pies, which typically feature salmon or sturgeon, herb-flecked rice, mushrooms, onions and boiled eggs encased in a pastry shell, will be on sale at the World Cup itself as part of the catering offering. While they do take a bit of time to put together, the result is a delicious and impressive-looking meal in a satisfying mouthful – just what you need when you can’t bear to tear your eyes from the screen.
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
75g button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
80g basmati rice, cooked
1 bunch dill, fronds picked
2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
350g salmon fillet
2 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and sliced
1 egg, beaten
Melt the butter in a saucepan set over a medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms, cumin and coriander seeds, and cinnamon. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onion has softened. Season, remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, stir into the rice along with the chopped dill.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place one of the sheets of puff pastry on the tray and add half the rice in a vertical line down the middle, leaving a border around the edge.
Preheat an oven to 2000C, gas mark 6. Lay the salmon fillet over the rice, season with salt and pepper and arrange the boiled egg slices over the top. Spoon over the remaining rice mixture. Press the mixture together lightly with your hands and brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Drape the remaining pastry sheet over the top, pressing or crimping the edges together to seal. Brush all over with the remaining beaten egg and score the surface lightly with a fork to create a criss-cross pattern.
Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 1800C, gas mark 4, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the pastry is crisp and golden. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, or allow to cool completely, then cut into slices to serve.
June 17: Germany vs Mexico
Touted to be one of the most exciting of the group stage matches, it seems only right to bring your absolute A game to the snack situation come Sunday evening, as the defending champions take on the top-class Mexican team.
Now, when it comes to deciding what to munch during this match, the German pretzel – all warm, doughy, salty and filling – might seem like the obvious choice, but in reality, pretzels are quite time-consuming to make and the shop-bought versions, more often than not, just don’t measure up.
Instead, we say embrace the Latin-American way of thinking. In Mexico, vendors, carrying trays laden with noodle pots known as sopas, often tour the stands at football matches, pouring boiling water over the instant noodles once purchased, and offering lime wedges and hot sauce on the side for extra seasoning. It’s a very simple idea, but a good one.
At home, you can even take things up a notch and offer your football-watching friends an array of different seasoning options and added extras, so that they can customise their own noodle bowls – think sliced red chilli, some fresh herbs such as oregano, soy sauce, chilli sauce, lightly sauteed mushrooms and even freshly shredded greens to add a healthy twist.
June 21: France vs Peru
Peru should be applauded for their efforts in reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and the country certainly has a strong food culture, yet for this clash, it would be hard to ignore the French and their long-standing culinary pedigree. Much like the style of football that the national team plays, in France, the food enjoyed whilst watching the beautiful game tends to be a rather classy affair.
Although offerings vary from region to region, aperitifs and light bites such as nuts, cold cuts and cheese are always popular. So too are filling morsels that can be eaten without a knife and fork: pissaldiere – the savoury onion and anchovy tart found in abundance in boulangeries throughout Provence – fits the bill perfectly, but for an even easier home win, turn to the tartine.
Essentially an open-faced sandwich with, bien sur, a sophisticated edge, the base of a tartine calls for good-quality bread, which can then be piled high with all manner of different ingredient combinations. Some of our favourite fixings include: gooey, buttery brie finished with blackberries tossed in balsamic vinegar; goat’s cheese, sliced peaches, chopped walnuts and honey; slivers of radish, Boursin cheese and bresaola; and sauteed garlic mushrooms with thyme.
June 28: England vs Belgium
As one of the last matches of the group stage, this encounter could well decide who wins group G. Tensions will no doubt be running high and a platter of comfort food is absolutely essential to help soothe fraught nerves. Flemish-style frites mayonnaise are devoured in abundance at football matches across Belgium and their appeal is obvious. Crisp on the outside, fluffy in the centre, beef-fat-fried chips served in a paper cone and topped with a generous fluff of mayonnaise – what’s not to love?
Yet, as tasty as that sounds, there’s a strong case for going English on the 28th and watching the game with a traditional beef pie in hand. Our take on this classic football food features a textbook steak and mushroom filling, and a golden pastry case that can be devoured in just a couple of restorative mouthfuls. Take note: these bite-sized treats might fall short of curing heartbreak by way of an injury-time goal, but they will go some way towards easing the pain.
Mini steak and mushroom pies
Makes 12 mini pies
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook: 1½ hours
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
50g button mushrooms, sliced
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
2 tbsp plain flour
250g sirloin steak, trimmed and diced
1 tbsp tomato puree
500ml beef stock
2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
Set a saucepan with the oil and butter over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, mushrooms and thyme, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Tip the flour onto a plate, and season with salt and pepper. Add the steak pieces and turn to coat in the flour.
Increase the heat, add the steak to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until browned all over. Stir in the tomato puree, cook for 1 minute more, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil briefly, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 2000C, gas mark 6. Use a 5 centimetre to 6cm round cutter to stamp out six circles from each pastry sheet. Arrange on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes, until puffed up and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Once it cools down, slice in half horizontally.
When you’re ready to serve, warm the pastry disks through in a low oven. Spoon the hot beef mixture onto the base of each pastry disk, then top it up with a lid.
More to try
Guaranteed to top the leader board. Flavour freshly popped corn with handfuls of finely grated Parmesan cheese and plenty of black pepper, drizzle with garlic butter and chopped chives, or be generous with warm maple syrup and salt.
The South African team may have missed out on qualifying, but that doesn’t mean that this tasty, protein-rich snack should be left on the sidelines; chomping chewy biltong is surprisingly good for reducing football-induced stress levels.
Do-it-yourself sugar-and-spice nuts
More satisfying than ready-made offerings from the supermarket, home-made spiced nuts take only minutes to make. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add 200g almonds. Fry for 1 minute until golden, then sprinkle 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper, toss well and cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan often.