A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day about his plans for New Year’s Eve cooking. I was a little surprised, mostly because I didn’t know he could cook, but also because he was researching and making a traditional Scottish New Year’s Eve pudding.
I don’t have any traditional New Year’s Eve recipes. I’ve cooked a lot of dishes for New Year’s Eve dinners and parties over the years, but something that welcomes in the New Year as part of a traditional, annual celebration – I don’t have a thing.
Well, maybe one.
When I was married to The Foreigner, I received two copies of the exact same Dutch cookbook. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as, to be blunt, there isn’t a lot of variety in Dutch food and it isn’t very interesting. Hearty, yes, and to a Dutchman, comforting and homey – but they’ll be the first to admit that if you want truly good food, it’s no more than an hour’s drive to Belgium from anywhere in The Netherlands.
For New Year’s Eve, he wanted me to make one thing, and I obliged: Olieballen. They are fritters, a yeast-raised dough containing a bit of lemon peel and assorted dried fruits (raisins and currants usually), deep fried in oil.
They were good and I liked them, and foolishly tried to make them on some random Sunday. The Foreigner got very upset and insisted that I not make them that day. They were for New Year’s Eve and only New Year’s Eve. Any other time was messing with tradition. He was adamant and though I couldn’t quite see his point, I obliged.
I made them on New Year’s Eve for him – the one or two years we were home for it, at least – and then when we divorced, banished the cookbook to storage and promptly forgot all about it.
Until I started reading about my friend’s traditional Clootie Pudding on Facebook.
Then I thought, well, perhaps The Child would enjoy being exposed to her Dutch heritage. It’s not like The Foreigner is going to do it – he didn’t even bother with sending her a gift this year for either Dutch Sinterklaas or American Christmas.
She and I didn’t have any plans, so I thought, it will be a nice way to spend the evening.
Except that, unlike me, she got an invitation for a sleepover at the last minute, leaving me home alone with a bowl full of rising dough. I set it aside and spent the evening watching a Doctor Who marathon, and enjoying the quiet house.
In the morning, the bowl was waiting for me. You’re not supposed to make Olieballen New Year’s Day. Maybe it’s a law? Something must be against the law over there.
But it’s perfectly legal here, and I made them as the sun rose on the first day of the New Year, and thought to myself: Tradition is good, but so are fresh starts.
And when you figure out how to adjust the tradition so that it fits comfortably into your life , wherever you find yourself – and it won’t be where you planned – well, that’s the best.
Happy New Year, one and all.
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ cup plus 2 tbsp milk
- 1⅔ cup flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup currants
- ¼ cup finely minced candied ginger
- vegetable oil for deep frying
- powdered sugar for coating
- Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk, set aside.
- Mix the flour, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, blending it partially in. Beat the eggs lightly, then add to the flour mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until the ingredients form a smooth batter.
- Mix in the fruit.
- Cover and leave dough to rise until doubled (several hours or overnight).
- When ready to make them, heat oil in a deep pan until very hot (375 deg.). Using a spoon or small scoop dipped in the hot oil, scoop out small egg-shaped pieces of dough and drop into the hot oil. Cook until nicely browned, turning as needed and being careful not to crowd.
- Drain on brown bags.
- If you wish to toss them in powdered sugar, put the olieballen into a large brown paper bag and add powdered sugar. Shake the bag a few times until coated.