Recipes for a Spice Girls-themed party

Twenty years ago, the greatest girl group of all time were at the peak of their fame. Victoria Adams, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Geraldine Halliwell were taking the entire world by storm, and given I was a tween, I fell right into Girl Power-mania. My collection of Spice Girl photos and posters was unrivaled amongst my peers.

My love for the Spice Girls has never dwindled, and even now I would happily shell out $500 for a ticket to a reunion concert…presuming of course, that all five original members would be involved!

In the absence of a true worldwide reunion tour, holding a Spice Girls-themed party complete with a screening of movie classic Spice World and themed snacks is my only consolation. The rest of this entry gives an overview of the different dishes I chose to serve up at my party, and offers a few other ideas of what you might serve at your own Spice Girls-themed Spice World screening party!

Baby Jellies

I served up a bowl of The Natural Confectionery Company’s Jelly Babies to represent Baby Spice. This was an easy zero-effort option, given that I knew I’d be spending some time in the kitchen making other dishes. Plus, who doesn’t like a bowl full of jelly babies?

You might also like to serve: Baked mushy bananas with cream, cake pops, fresh cut baby vegetables with hummus.

Scary Mummy Brie

For Scary Spice, I served up a Scary Mummy Brie. You might also like to serve: Any ‘scary’ Halloween-inspired recipe – severed finger cocktail sausages, candied poisoned apples, chocolate mice.

Scary Mummy Brie

Ingredients: Wheel of brie cheese, one sheet of defrosted puff pastry (Pampas), two almonds

Method: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut the puff pastry into thin strips and wrap it around the brie, leaving slight gaps here and there so that it resembles an Egyptian mummy head. Place the wrapped brie into the oven on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake until the inside of the brie is gooey – normally no more than twenty minutes.

Take the brie out, and poke the almonds, pointy end first, into where ‘eyes’ should be located. Serve with crackers on the side.

Posh Cucumber Sandwiches

You can’t get much posher than Cucumber Sandwiches, fit for a high tea or even for Posh Spice herself. You might also like to serve: any variety of hors d’oeuvres (e.g. salmon, dill and cream cheese vol au vents), prawn cocktails or a bottle of bubbly.

Cucumber Sandwiches

Ingredients: The softest white bread, proper spreadable butter, cucumber, salt, white pepper

Method: Peel the cucumber and slice it very thinly, placing the slices into a colander. Sprinkle salt lightly on the cucumber and leave it for 45 minutes, to encourage it to drain. After 45 minutes, pat each slice dry with a paper towel. Spread the bread with butter, making sure you don’t get finger or knife marks into the bread.

Layer the cucumber onto the bread, and sprinkle a dash of white pepper on top. Make your sandwich, then cut off the crusts, and then cut the sandwich into fingers (or triangles). Serve either upright on a tiered platter a la high tea, or stack them however you wish onto a plate.

Sporty Protein Balls

Sporty Spice herself would be proud of these Sporty Protein Balls – or more accurately, let’s just call them Sporty Energy Balls as they’re not THAT full of protein. You might also like to serve: green smoothie shots, healthy fruit kebabs, banana protein muffins.

Sporty Protein Balls

Ingredients: Oats, raisins, sesame seeds, peanut butter, honey (I made up quantities as I went along – sorry!)

Method: Mix a cup of rolled oats with a quarter cup of raisins and a generous handful of sesame seeds. Add about two tablespoons of honey and two tablespoons of peanut butter, and mix it all up. If not all the oats have combined into the mixture, add in more peanut butter and keep mixing. Keep adding peanut butter or honey until everything combines into a fairly solid ball.

Take a small tablespoon of the dough, and roll it in your hands until it forms a smooth ball. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours, or ideally overnight for maximum structural integrity.

Ginger and Lime Cordial

I’ve never forgiven Geri Halliwell for leaving the group and triggering the break-up of the group. Still, despite my unforgiving nature, I can’t leave out Ginger Spice and so I pay tribute to her with this easy Ginger and Lime Cordial. You may also like to serve: ginger kisses, apple and ginger slice, steamed oysters with soy, ginger and shallots.

Ginger and Lime Cordial

Ingredients: Buderim ginger refresher cordial, soda water, two limes

Method: Mix one part Buderim ginger refresher cordial with four parts soda water. Wash then slice up two limes to add to the mix. Chill in the fridge, then serve either in a punch bowl or a jug. Hint – have a bottle of vodka nearby for those who want to spike their cups with a bit of something, but leave the main cordial mix alcohol-free.

‘Spice Girl’ Cookies

Don’t forget to put the proverbial cherry on top by baking some ‘Spice Girl’ cookies for everyone to decorate as they like! Make sure you have plenty of cookie decorating supplies (icing etc) in different colours for people’s creativity to run wild. I made some slight modifications to this recipe on Taste.com.au to make these cookies – e.g. using more cinnamon and nutmeg, slightly less sugar and more golden syrup, etc.

Go forth, nostalgic readers, and Spice Up Your Life.

Review: Dining at Eataly in Rome, Italy

In the centre of Rome, there are shops where you can buy all manner of Italian foodstuffs to take home with you as a souvenir of your holiday. From pastas to pasta sauces, biscotti to wines, olive oils to truffles – there are shops that can sell you whatever typically Italian food item you want to take home with you. However – that’s not where the Italians shop.

If you want to shop where local Romans shop for high-quality gourmet Italian-made food products, you need to visit Eataly, a high-end multi-level grocery store boasting a wide range of products and multiple restaurants inside. They have branches all over Italy, as well as one in New York and several in Japan, but the one in Rome is the largest in the world. You can very easily spend hours in there exploring and checking out all the products on the shelves.

We stayed in an apartment not far from Eataly during our time in Rome, and dropped in on Easter Monday for lunch given that almost everything else was closed in the city!

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They have a number of different restaurants in Eataly, highlighting different types of cuisine – from pasta and pizza, to a meat restaurant, a fish restaurant, a vegetarian, a training restaurant for young chefs, a patisserie and more.

The main problem however is that there’s no central ordering system – you can’t for instance, sit in the pizza restaurant and order a steak from the meat restaurant. That means if you’re dining with a group of people, you have to agree what you all want to eat beforehand. The other downside is that if you want to go to a few different restaurants and sample the different food as we did, you end up paying the service charge (1 Euro per person) multiple times…this starts to add up a bit!

Bismarck pizza with poche egg, pork sausage, Antonella Italian peeled tomato and Agerola fiordilatte cheese, 11.50 Euro
Bismarck pizza with poche egg, pork sausage, Antonella Italian peeled tomato and Agerola fiordilatte cheese, 11.50 Euro

We started off at the pizza and pasta restaurant, and ordered a Bismark Pizza to share as our starter. At 11.50 Euro for a few small bits of sausage and a single egg, it’s definitely on the pricey side. However, the execution is so well done that it’s hard to begrudge the price. With a crispy base with a good amount of chew, a thin layer of tomato paste and a perfectly soft-boiled egg with a wonderfully runny yolk, it’s a simple pizza that satisfies.

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Our next stop was at their Street Food stall, which specialises in serving deep-fried Italian goodies such as panzerotti – essentially a small calzone. It’s interesting how similar fried foods exist in other cultures – it’s not dissimilar to a curry puff for example!

Panzerotto with Ignalat mozzarella of cow's milk and Antonella tomato sauce, 3 Euro
Panzerotto with Ignalat mozzarella of cow’s milk and Antonella tomato sauce, 3 Euro

I think the main point of difference is in the pastry used – where curry puffs can be a little too doughy, a good panzerotto is wonderfully thin and crispy. The pastry in this version of a Panzerotto with Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce was even a little bit sweet, reminiscent of the flavours of a fried doughnut. With the oodles of hot melted cheese inside, this little doughnut-esque panzerotto really hit that balance between savoury and sweet. One I would definitely order again!

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Our next stop was the vegetarian restaurant. A warning note to vegetarians – while all the dishes are technically vegetarian, it’s not a great place to visit if you have other dietary requirements. With only about half a dozen mains on the menu, most of which aren’t gluten-free or vegan (one dish is just a cheese board with four Italian cheeses!), it may not be the best place to go if you have certain dietary requirements.

Carrot, blood orange and apple juice, 5 Euro
Carrot, blood orange and apple juice, 5 Euro

We started off by sharing a juice – the waitress described that day’s special juice as being a carrot, lemon and apple blended juice. I think it would be more accurate to call this a Carrot, Blood Orange and Apple Juice – there was no tart note to the juice at all, but there was a slightly bitter note at the start of each sip which I always associate with the more bitter blood orange. A little bit pricey (5 Euro) for the tiny glass that it came in.

Kuma whole cous cous with red beetroot, green apple and Gennargentu goat cheese with lemon and basil, 9.50 Euro
Kuma whole cous cous with red beetroot, green apple and Gennargentu goat cheese with lemon and basil, 9.50 Euro

I ordered the Kuma Whole Cous Cous, a beautifully presented dish of well-balanced flavours and textures. The beetroot added sweetness and colour, the crisp Granny Smith apples added much needed texture and a slight tangy bite, and the strong goats cheese added depth of flavour. A deceptively simple dish executed flawlessly – one worth replicating at home for future meals!

Orzotto Risottato of La Valletta barley with black cabbage, dry porcini mushrooms and parsley, 11.50 Euro
Orzotto Risottato of La Valletta barley with black cabbage, dry porcini mushrooms and parsley, 11.50 Euro

K ordered the Orzotto Risottato, a barley risotto of a porridge-like consistency. Did you know that some people choose to use barley over a more conventional risotto grain like arborio rice because of the health benefits of using wholegrains? I might have to give it a try – the barley gave this risotto a particularly nice ‘chew’ and texture. I’ll try using other ingredients though for more distinct and memorable flavours – this one was a little bit bland with a generic ‘vegetable stock’ flavour.

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Our last stop in Eataly was up to the top floor to this little display table where you can order freshly-filled cannoli. We hadn’t had cannoli at all during our stay in Rome up to that point, so that was as good a reason as any to get some!

Ricotta filled cannoli, 4 Euro each
Ricotta filled cannoli, 4 Euro each

K and I got one Ricotta Filled Cannoli each. I got mine dipped in dark chocolate chips and pistachio crumbs, and he got candied orange peel in his. Of course we each preferred our own to the others’ – but I honestly think the chocolate chips were the best choice as they were dark and rich without that powdery mouth-feel that you often get with substandard chocolate chips. The ricotta filling was particularly creamy and sweet, and the cannoli was crispy. Freshly-filled cannoli is definitely the way to go, I’ll never buy pre-made cannoli again!

Eataly is the place to go if you want to get authentic Italian gourmet food products – don’t get sucked in by those tourist-oriented gourmet shops in the centre of town! Make sure to stop by some of their restaurants when you visit as well – the panzerotto and the cannoli are a must.

Hopefully in the future, Eataly will consider implementing a central dining area where customers can order off the menus of all the different restaurants rather than being restricted to a single menu with only a half dozen items on it…hope springs eternal in the beautiful city of Rome!

Eataly Rome is located on Piazzale XII Ottobre in Rome, Italy, near the Piramide metro stop, or Rome Ostiense train station.

Dessert Hunting in Athens, Greece

If previous posts on this blog and various photos on Instagram didn’t already make you think I was an absolute pig…well, this blog post will do it. Here, I visit and sample desserts from six different places in modern Athens – traditional desserts like lukumades and baklava are featured, but I also visit places where all the cool young kids are spending their Euros for sweet treats as well.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also want to add – I did not visit all six dessert establishments in a single day! Visits were spread out over the course of our six day stay in Athens. Putting on weight while travelling around Europe is a given, but I didn’t want to exacerbate the problem by going overboard with extreme dessert consumption in a single day!

Which will be your favourite?

Stop 1: Lukumades

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Our first stop was Lukumades serving up “Authentic Greek Delights”. They’re located right in the heart of the Monastiriki area of modern Athens…or at least they were when we went. We visited on our first full day in Athens and had a great dessert – then when we walked past again on our second day, the windows had been papered over with a “coming soon” message. I hope they were just renovating, and that it’s still open now for customers!

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As their name suggests, they serve up a large range of lukumades, traditional Greek doughnuts, with a variety of toppings, syrups, fillings…whatever you could think of, they offer it. Also on offer are a range of drinks, coffees, and ice-creams as well. As you can see, they do a roaring trade!

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We ordered their basic honey & cinnamon lukumades to share for around 3.50 Euro. While it seems like a basic combination, it works well as they use fantastic Greek honey, full of a floral scent and flavour that just covers the freshly fried lukumades in a sweet slick coating. The cinnamon adds just a touch of spice that stops it from becoming too sweet and cloying.

One serve of about a dozen lukumades is the perfect size to share between two people – any more and you would begin to feel sickly! A must-visit while in Athens – if it’s still open!

Lukumades is/was located on Aiolou in Athens, Greece.

Stop 2: Chillbox

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Our second dessert stop at Chillbox didn’t have anything to do with traditional Greek desserts – though they do use Greek yoghurt for their frozen yoghurt if that counts! The main appeal of Chillbox was how it appealed to the younger generation of Greeks – on a Saturday in Athens, you’ll easily see two or three dozen young Greek girls walking around the main shopping area with a Chillbox in hand.

A frozen yoghurt chain with stores all over Greece (and other countries including in the UK and USA as well), Chillbox is a pretty standard frozen yoghurt store working on a weight-based payment system (around 2 Euro per 100gm). The frozen yoghurt and toppings are all self-service, and you know you only pay for what you take. Their main point of difference is presentation. Once you prep your own frozen yoghurt cup, it’s popped into a little take-away box so you can stroll down the street eating it without freezing your hands.

It’s not dissimilar to any other frozen yoghurt store anywhere else in the world, but if you want to look cool and hip to all the young Greek tweens – this is the place to go.

Chillbox is located at Evaggelistrias 2 in Athens, Greece, and many other locations worldwide – check their website.

Stop 3: Nanou Donuts House

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Our third stop at Nanou Donuts House was one of convenience – there was a branch located just down the street from where we were staying in the Sepolia suburb of Athens. The interior is fairly stark, and all the donuts they have on offer are simply displayed on wire racks behind the counter – no fancy glass cabinets here.

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We chose three donuts to take away – one heart-shaped jam-filled powdered sugar donut, one vanilla-glazed jam-filled semi-cronut, and one chocolate and hazelnut dusted, chocolate-filled donut. These donuts are the soft fluffy types – very light and aerated, and the only heavy thing about them is the jam/chocolate filling. They’re nothing out of ordinary, but if you want a light-ish sweet snack while out on the streets of Athens, Nanou Donuts House is a safe bet.

Nanou Donuts House is located at Voriou Ipirou 143 in Athens, Greece, and many other locations in Greece – check their website.

Stop 4: Meliartos

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Our fourth stop was at Meliartos, which is more of an all-rounder cafe than specifically a dessert establishment. It’s split up into a few different sections – the all-important Greek coffee counter, a sandwiches and fresh salads counter, a Greek pie (spanakopita and more) counter, and last but not least, a desserts counter. They have a range of Greek desserts on offer (baklava etc) but if you’re interested in something a bit more international, they also offer standard single-serve desserts such as tiramisu, lemon tart, etc.

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K tried a Freddo Cappuccino drink – essentially an iced espresso, with thick milk foam on top. He chose the semi-sweet option, but you can also choose unsweet or sweet. While the espresso itself wasn’t on par with Australian coffee standards, the milk foam on top was a good addition as it meant you could mix in as much or as little milk into the espresso as you wanted.

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I got myself a slice of baklava and galaktompoureko. Everyone knows baklava – and this was a particularly good version with crisp filo sheets, sweet fragrant honey, and an absolute overload of nuts. Galaktompoureko is a little more unknown though and is essentially like a custard pie, but made of semolina. Again, with the flaky crisp pastry, but filled with a delicious semolina custard that’s nice and firm and not too sweet. Beautiful.

Meliartos is located on the corner of Ermou and Aiolou in Athens, Greece.

Stop 5: Yiaourtaki

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Our next stop was at Yiaourtaki, a shop we had passed a few times before. Its sign advertising fresh Greek yoghurt was what drew me in – frozen Greek yoghurt still includes all the preservatives and stabilisers of normal frozen yoghurt, and I wanted to try something all-natural without all the nasty bits and pieces.

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Unlike other frozen yoghurt shops, Yiaourtaki doesn’t offer self-service. Instead you choose your yoghurt (fresh or frozen) and toppings which range from about 50-80 Euro cents and the guy behind the counter will assemble your concoction for you. The downside to this system of course is that you don’t get any control over how large your serving is, and whether or not you can overload on one topping rather than the other.

I chose a fresh Greek yoghurt with Greek honey and pomegranate seeds as my toppings – I figured, what could be more Greek than yoghurt, honey, and the fruit that caused the goddess Persephone’s tie to Hades and the underworld? This proved to be an excellent combination of tart sour yoghurt, sweet blossom honey, and the occasional fruity burst of juice from the pomegranates. A fantastic dessert with no artificial sugars or flavourings – quite delicious.

Yiaourtaki is located opposite Monastiraki Square on Ermou 82 in Athens, Greece.

Stop 6: Ballader Atelier Patisserie

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Our last stop was at Ballader Atelier Patisserie, which had coincidentally only just opened in Athens a couple of days prior to our visit. Mixing traditional French pastries with a touch of Italian gelatos and entirely Greek approaches, Ballader is unique in Athens for its complete dedication to freshness.

Many Greek bakeries around Athens will churn out trays after trays of cookies and biscuits, and you never quite know how old the cookies you’re buying actually are. At Ballader, all of the desserts are marked with a little sign stating the date and time that they were made (e.g. 21/3, 14.17), so you can choose the freshest pastries available. Anything not sold within 24 hours is considered no longer fresh and sale-able.

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We chose to get our desserts take away to have later that night. The first – a lemon meringue tart with light meringue tufts that were ridiculously light and creamy on the palate. The lemon curd itself was very smooth and tangy, and while the tart was a bit thicker than I would have expected, it was such a great buttery pastry that I couldn’t complain. K who considers himself a lemon tart aficionado gave this a hearty thumbs up.

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Our second choice was a banoffee tart, freshly made according to its little “birth date” sign! With an incredibly fragrant vanilla cream on top, fresh slices of banana in the tart case and a delicious caramel sauce, this banoffee tart ticked all the boxes. I regret not buying one of their macarons to try as well…but a girl must have her dessert limits!

Ballader Atelier Patisserie is located at Kapnikarea 2 in Athens, Greece.