Ring in the new year with oliebollen!

In Recipes on January 2, 2022 at 1:08 am

My Oma and Opa migrated from the Netherlands in 1951, joining the thousands of other European migrants abandoning the continent after the devastation of WWII. To come to Australia they had to leave a lot behind, in those days migrants were supposed to ‘assimilate’ into Australian society, abandoning the culture and customs of their homeland, to become what was known then as ‘new Australians’. In more recent times, we have placed emphasis on new migrants retaining their cultural roots as much as possible, and this has created, especially in Melbourne, a genuinely rich multicultural society. But, to return to my Oma, like most migrants many of the traditions that she did retain from the Netherlands related to food, and one of the most important was to make oliebollen every New Year’s Eve for the whole extended family. I remember eating these ‘oil balls’ (not the most inspiring name I have to say), every new year throughout my childhood and adulthood, until sadly, we lost my Oma in 2003. I had all but forgotten about these delicious treats until this new year, when my aunt made a batch of bubbling oliebollen batter and cooked some up, ably assisted by my mother. Fresh from the deep fryer, tossed in icing sugar, like Proust with his madeleine, my first bite transported me back to my childhood and summer holidays spent with my Oma and Opa.



50g (1oz) fresh yeast or half as much dried yeast

175ml (6fl oz) lukewarm scalded milk

1 lemon

1 large cooking apple

50g (2oz) raisins

25g (1oz) mixed peel

225g (8oz) strong white flour

pinch salt

castor or icing sugar for dusting


Activate the yeast in some of the warm milk, adding a pinch of sugar if using dried yeast. Grate the peel of the lemon. Squeeze the lemon and grate the peeled apple into the juice. In a large bowl, add this, and the lemon rind to the yeast mixture along with all of the other ingredients, except the sugar, and mix well. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rise until the mixture has doubled in size. Heat a neutral oil such as canola or peanut, in a deep fryer or in a saucepan. If not using a deep fryer, you can check if the oil is hot enough by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, if the oil bubbles around the handle then the oil is hot enough. Using two oiled soup spoons, scoop out the mixture, trying to form it into a ball-like shape. Drop into the hot oil one at a time. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan as it will bring the temperature of the oil down and the oliebollen will stick together. When the olibollen are golden brown on one side, flip them over with a slotted spoon and brown the other side. Remove from the oil and drain well on kitchen paper. Dust with castor or icing sugar and eat as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Any leftover oliebollen can be stored in a sealed container and eaten the next day, but remember, they are at their best when eaten fresh out of the fryer.

Kimchi Jjigae: Korean ‘Seoul’ Food

In Recipes on May 1, 2018 at 6:00 am

Jjigae or stew, usually with the addition of gochujang and kimchi, is a very popular dish, in Korea. There are many variations on this stew but the one constant is that they all include the two ingredients mentioned above. Otherwise, the possibilities are endless.  One of the most interesting of the jjigae recipes is Budae-jjigae or ‘army stew’. A dish that was invented of necessity, in the areas adjoining US military bases after the end of the Korean war. Budae means troop or military camp and jjigae means that the dish is a stew and is thicker than guk (soup). Food was not easy to find in post war Korea so the locals scrounged army surplus supplies from the nearby US military bases. These were often tinned goods like Spam, hot dogs and other processed meats, along with baked beans and processed American cheese. They developed this into a hearty stew using local ingredients like kimchi, spicy pickled cabbage or other vegetables and gochujang, Korean chilli paste and gochugaru, Korean chilli powder to add flavour to the mix. This unusual combination is actually surprisingly good, I have eaten it here in Melbourne at various Korean restaurants. Usually it is a shared dish served in a hotpot in the middle of the table and the stew is spooned over rice in individual bowls. The kimchi jjigae I made recently was really easy and very good. I used sliced pork shoulder and added tofu towards the end, but you can substitute lots of other things including sliced beef, sliced mushrooms, the processed meats that make budae-jjigae, anything you like, the base ingredients are the same.

30412637_929920617132859_6053961067493588992_o Kimchi Jjigae


400 g kimchi, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 kimchi brine (the liquid that is in the kimchi jar)

500 g pork shoulder or pork belly (thinly sliced)

250 g firm tofu (sliced into 1 cm slices)

4 spring onions

1 medium brown onion (thinly sliced)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp gochugaru

1 tbs gochujang

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbs vegetable oil

2 cups anchovy stockor chicken stock


Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy based pan, stir fry the brown onion and the pork for a couple of minutes then add the kimchi and the kimchi brine. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Slice the spring onions diagonally and add them to the pot. Add salt, sugar, hot pepper flakes and hot pepper paste. Drizzle sesame oil over the top and add the anchovy or chicken stock. Cover and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Open the lid and mix the seasonings through, then lay the tofu over the top.


Cover and cook for a further 10-15 minutes over medium heat. Garnish with more spring onion and serve with rice.

Jigae 4

* Anchovy Stock


7 large dried anchovies

1/3 cup daikon radish (sliced thinly)

4 x 10 cm dried kelp

3 spring onion roots (washed)

4 cups water


Put the anchovies, daikon, spring onion roots and dried kelp in a saucepan. Add the water and boil for 20 minutes over medium to high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. Strain.


Leaves of the vine and a glass of wine …

In Recipes on December 29, 2017 at 12:26 am

When I visit my parents place on the Bellarine Peninsula we often eat lunch outside, overlooking their mature grape vines. The time of the year when the vines are most attractive is around October, November and December, when they are in leaf. The leaves with their unusual shape and the light filtering through the mass of pale green are a beautiful sight. Whenever I see them I think of making dolmades but I have never gotten around to it.

Dolmades or dolmathes have been readily available in Melbourne for a long time. This is probably due to our large Greek polpulation (see Sometimes I hear a mermaid singing and More from the Greek diaspora in August 2011), the largest outside Greece apparently. The dolmades that you can buy ready-made vary in quality from the rather bad soggy ones you can get from the supermarket deli to quite delicious ones that can be bought from Greek restaurants. The Greeks claim to have invented the stuffed vine leaf though they are common in countries across the Middle East including Lebanon and Turkey.

The Greek story claims that these tasty rolled snacks, usually served with a Greek meze rather than as part of a main meal, were spread across the region, albeit inadvertently, by Alexander the Great. They claim that when Alexander besieged Thebes, food was so scarce that the locals ‘minced’ their meat and stuffed it into vine leaves to make it go further*. I like this story, it tells of another great dish born of necessity and of cooks trying to use what was easily available to them. I would argue that many of the world’s great dishes began in this way. The poor starving locals may then have discovered that the leaves impart their own unique flavour to the filling and that this was a dish worth serving even in more abundant times. With my profoundest apologies to any Greek readers out there, the dolmades or dolmasi I have made here are from a Turkish recipe in Ghillie Basan’s Classic Turkish Cooking. These ones do not contain meat but you could add 250 g of lamb mince when frying the onions and omit or halve the amount of pine nuts and currants if you wanted to include meat.

Vine leaves stuffed with currants and pine nuts

Dolna served


24-30 fresh or preserved vine leaves, washed and prepared

For the filling

225 g short grain rice

2 onions (finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

2 tbs olive oil

1 scant tbs sugar

2 tbs currants, soaked in water

2 tbs pine nuts

1/2 tsp all spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbs each fresh parsley, mint and dill (finely chopped)

For the cooking liquid

150 ml water

2 tbs olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

Dolma filling


# Soak the rice in warm salted water for 10 mins, drain and rinse

# Prepare the filling. Soften the onions and garlic in the olive oil. Stir in the sugar, currants and pine nuts. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the spices, rice, salt and pepper. Cover with just enough water and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Mix in the herbs with a fork, cover the pan and leave for five minutes. The rice should still have a bite to it.

Dolma construction

# Place a few vine leaves in the bottom of a wide pan. Lay the rest of the vine leaves on a flat surface and place spoonfuls of the rice mixture in the middle of each. Fold the near end of each vine leaf over the mixture, then the side flaps o seal it in, and roll it all up into a thin cigar. Arrange the stuffed vine leaves in the pan, seam side down and tightly packed, and pour over the cooking liquid. Place a plate on top to prevent them from unravelling, and cover with a lid. Bring the liquid to the boil, reduce the heat and cook gently for one hour. Leave to cool in the pan and serve cold with wedges of lemon.

Dolma in the pot

* From ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves, Greek Style’ by Fred Perretti, New York Times, 18/12/2017

** For more on dolma see Middle Eastern Food: You say dolma and I say dolmeh in April 2017