In the Netherlands, the whole New Year thing is called “Oud en Nieuw”, which means “Old and New”. One of the traditional things to eat around this time is Oliebollen, which translated literally means “Oil balls”. Essentially, they’re deep-fried balls of dough, dusted liberally with powdered sugar. Mmm, donuts.

But don’t picture American style cake-like donuts, or British style sweet dense bread-like donuts. Oliebollen aren’t for dunkin’. They really are oil balls. They’re fried to an greasy golden crisp on the outside, and are hot, thick and sweet on the inside. You can buy them in bakeries and in oliebollen stands on street corners. Buy them from a street vendor, and they’ll come in a white paper bag that will be saturated to the point of see-through by the time you get them home. If they last that long. They’re delicious on their own, or with a beer, or with some champagne at Oud en Nieuw.

We bought my parents a deep-fat fryer for Christmas. Guess what we were munching on Boxing Day?

Here’s the recipe we used, cribbed (and translated) from the web site of Bakkerij Steevens:

Ingredients (makes about 40 oliebollen)

  • 1kg flour
  • 1l water
  • 25g salt
  • 50g sugar
  • 80g yeast (yes, really 80g)
  • 10g cinnamon powder
  • 200g raisins
  • 100g chopped apples
  • A splash of lemon juice

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Mix the cinnamon, salt and sugar into the flour, and then add the yeasty water. Stir this for a short while (or use a blender on slow) until you’ve got goo. Fold in the raisins, apples and lemon juice. Then cover the mix with a damp tea towel (to stop it drying out) and leave it to stand and rise in a warm place for at least 45 minutes. Make sure you put it in a big container, because it’s going to at least double in size.

Heat your oil to 180° C (350° F). Use an ice cream scoop or a large spoon to drop lumps of the dough into the oil, and let them sit and bubble for about 5 minutes, turning them over half-way through so they are golden on both sides. Then take them out and let them rest on some kitchen roll.

Don’t eat them immediately, because they’re burning hot. You can let them rest for a while until they’re merely warm, or you can keep them for longer and then gently re-heat them in an oven. Don’t re-heat them in a microwave, because they’ll go all soggy and horrible. (You can eat them cold, too, but they’re really meant to be eaten warm, on a frosty night.)

To serve the oliebollen, place a whole bundle of them on a big plate, and smother them in powdered sugar. Then make sure that everyone has enough napkins to wipe their fingers with….