South Sudanese cookbook – a gorgeous world first

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Jibrine Akima Magdaline Jok wears a number of hats.

She’s a Caroline Springs mother of four children.

She’s a successful career woman in the finance sector.

She’s a proud member of the South Sudanese community in Melbourne and Australia.

And now she’s the author and publisher of a fabulous South Sudanese cookbook.

So far as she and I can ascertain, it’s the first South Sudanese cookbook – ever.

The book was born of her love of cooking and, more specifically, through a visit to her mother in Africa that came after more than a decade of separation.

She has been inspired, too, by the thought that food traditions can be a profound community glue in fraught times of war, refugees and families scattered to the four winds around the globe.

“When I visited my mum, we cooked every day and I heard all the stories,” Jibrine says.

“I spent most of my time jotting down notes and practising the dishes that she made on a daily basis.

“This advice she shared stays with me: ‘The more time, patience, love and passion you have for cooking meals, the greater the taste’.”

I am in awe of Jibrine’s efforts in scrambling up an Everest-like learning curve to bring this project to life.

She’s obviously a very capable human – but until now she had zero experience with writing, editing, publishing, cookbooks, translation and more.

On top of all that, she has successfully created a book of more than 100 recipes directly from the maternal source – bringing to life in the written word recipes previously transmitted only by the verbal/visual folk methods of “a handful of this, and a pinch of that”.

 

 

Like all great cookbooks, Jibrine’s effort can be seen as an end in itself – it’s beautiful to handle and read, and the photographs are simple, honest and not inappropriately styled in terms of glam.

There’a strong accent on a wide variety of stews – meat, poultry, fish, pulses.

The recipes appear to be straightforward and well presented, and most of the ingredients of the easily obtainable variety.

 

 

In some ways, Jibrine’s cookbook journey is just beginning.

The challenge now is to get that book and those recipes into the kitchens of foodies everywhere.

To buy a copy of South Sudanese Family Cookbook, try Lueth Variety Shop, 10B Paisley Street, Footscray, phone 9687 4097. It costs $30. Or email Jibrine on jibrinem@yahoo.com

 

Fishy delights

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Serenity Blu, Shop 4/29-35 Lake St, Caroline Springs. Phone: 8390 1700

A few days after eating at Serenity Blu, a friend asked what there was to write about a fish and chip shop.

Turns out she was not familiar with the new-school F&C joints that have come on the scene in the past decade or so – somewhat in tandem with the similar burger places.

For her, fish and chips meant wrapped in paper and always takeaway.

The places we like, by contrast and featured many times here on Consider The Sauce, are quite different.

So what do we seek or want from flash F&C places?

We want a nice, bright, clean setting.

We expect to eat in-house.

We want cooks/chefs who look like they know what they are about – if they’re dressed smartly, so much the better.

 

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We like seeing a nice line-up of at least a couple of good salads.

We most definitely expect to use real cutlery to eat food that is on real plates (or, in the case of Serenity Blu, boards).

We want to see a good range of seafood available, both grilled and fried.

Most of all, we’ve come to expect to be able to get fish, chips and salad, well presented, for under $20 – that is, at least $10 less than the same meal would cost in a restaurant proper or pub.

Serenity Blu, a new operation in Caroline Springs housed in what was formerly Ocean’s D’Lish, scores well on all those counts.

 

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Though we’re equally happy to see they are enough grounded in F&C tradition to offer potato cakes and chips with gravy!

My mid-week lunch companion is Conan of the Yo India Food Truck, a Caroline Springs local.

As we talk shop and other matters of mutual interest, we enjoy a very nice lunch.

 

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Conan chooses the grilled salmon with chips and salad ($17.50).

The fish is well cooked through but still very good.

 

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My flathead fillet with chips and salad ($16.50) is every bit as fine.

The fish is well battered and cooked, and of a good size.

In both our cases, the chips are good but fall short of great.

My coleslaw – the serve is smaller, by my choice, than would’ve normally been provided – is fresh and lovely.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Conan’s quinoa/melon/grape salad.

Normally, I’d be suspicious of anything so redolent of hipster wellness, but this really does taste wonderful.

 

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Serenity Blu is the baby of Aydin.

That’s her in the middle, with nephew Tarkan on the left and son Yakup on the right.

Tarkan has previously worked at Nobu and that sort of breeding shows in the food preparation and presentation at Serenity Blu.

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Perhaps I should keep a closer eye on Caroline Springs.

In some spare time I had before meeting Conan, I spied restaurants of the Japanese and Malaysian varieties that I did not know were there.

Then, in the shopping centre proper, I ran into Jacqui The Urban Ma and her kids.

Finally, as I entered Serenity Blu itself, I met Natalie Galea Ahmet.

Natalie runs Garden of Eden Photography, and through that has somewhat accidentally fallen into doing social media work for eatries she has shot – including this one!

It was through contact she made with a Star Weekly colleague that I learned about this new F&C place.

I love how connections work.

 

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Photo: Garden of Eden Photography

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Cool Macedonian in the west

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Korzo Grill House,12/106 Gourlay Rd, Caroline Springs. Phone: 9449 9219

After picking up Nat from his place of employ in Moonee Ponds, we are tootling up the Calder towards the northern part of Caroline Springs.

It’s a sweet drive so we have mucho time for a catch-up.

Inevitably, given the foodie talk of the town in recent days, we eventually turn to the concept of paying $500+ – excluding drinks – for a restaurant meal.

In many ways for me, it’s a matter of noting with detached interest, shrugging and going about my business.

I do, however, think it posits food in the same terrain as a Maserati, a $50,000 watch or queuing up for a week in order to get a new phone.

It’s about snob value and exclusiveness.

Nat nails it:

“I’d much rather be heading into the unknown with you on an adventure such as this!”

Amen to that!

This particular adventure turns out to be an all-round winner, even if we have a pretty good idea of what awaits on account of an earlier visit to a similar establishment in Thomastown.

For me personally, and having come to regard Caroline Springs and neighbouring environs as something of a wasteland, heading this way to find a hot eating place is a thrill.

 

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There’s some uniquely Balkan/Macedonian specialties on the menu … such as two kinds of pleskavia (meat patties with cheese) and selso meso (village hot pot).

But even if it is somewhat predictable, we head for the mixed grill ($55 for two, $28 for one) to speedily get a handle on what the place is about.

It’s very, very good and quite the bargain.

Best are the kebapi (skinless sausages, brought in) and the skinned snags (house-made).

The former are juicy and seasoned just bright; the latter are tightly packed and tangy.

The chicken is good and flavoursome, but a tad dry even when caressed by bacon. That’s what you often get with breast meat.

The rib meat of the pork chops is great, but again the hearts are dry. And again, we know this is difficult, we don’t mind at all and we keep on eating.

The chips are truly memorable and the cabbage salad the perfect foil, as always, for this kind of food.

 

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The capsicum dip works well, but as this food is basically without suaces and gravies – and that’s not a complaint – we get a side of pecini piperki ($$8) to help sluice things along.

Korzo is done out in crisp, casual eatery style.

Incredibly, there’s another place right next door that also does a few Balkan-style dishes, although it also covers bases such as pasta.

We’ve enjoyed the service provided my Melissa; and afterwards we enjoy talking with the boss and cook, Jim.

He tells us that there’s a significant Macedonian community in the Caroline Springs/Hillside/Taylors Lakes area, enough for a foundation for his restaurant.

He’s hoping for a broader audience than that of course, and is billing his food as more generally Balkan rather than specifically Macedonian.

In any case, we’re glad he’s doing his thing.

When we mention the arid chicken and pork, he sighs wearily – he’s heard it all before.

He’s tried thigh meat, but there’s customers who demand breast.

Likewise, his customers are mad for the pork chops.

 

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Bagels – the hole story in Caroline Springs

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Rosen’s Bagels

Say bagels, and most people would do as we do and think of, say, New York or Philadelphia or Europe.

Yet while Michael Rosen originally hails from Los Angeles, bagels are a big part of his Jewish heritage.

As he says simply on his website: “I grew up eating bagels.”

For many years making his own had been a hobby.

But when he moved to Melbourne with his Australian wife a couple of years back, and settled in Caroline Springs, his bagel-making took on more of a cultural imperative.

There are bagels available in Melbourne, but as far as either of us are aware, none at all in the city’s greater west … save for those being generated by Michael’s new business.

“I wanted good bagels near me,” he says.

As well, he was coming into regular contact with a variety of US expats, Jewish and otherwise, who were likewise feeling profound bagel deficit.

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It took him the best part of a year to get into the righteous swing of bagel-making in a new country – there has been much testing and experimenting to learn how to produce an excellent bagel using different water, flour and oven.

But now he’s flying.

His regular gig is in the IT industry, and of necessity that can and will remain the case for the time being – he’s in no great hurry to go the full bagel.

But he is having a ball, all the while treating his bagel business in a smart and professional manner.

Putting his bagels on a more professional footing is bringing its own challenges.

He has forged a working relationship with his local Caroline Springs bakery, Let’s A Loaf, so has had to get to grips with working with more dough and much grander cooking facilities.

Bennie and I love hanging with him for a while in his Caroline Springs home as he talks bagels and bakes us up a superb batch.

Michael uses nothing but organic flour.

Also into the dough go fresh yeast, malt, salt and water.

Michael shows us how he breaks the dough mound into smaller, weighed segments and then deftly hand-rolls them into fat strands before – hey presto! – joining the ends.

Looks easy, no doubt takes many hours of practice!

It’s this hand-rolling that helps make Michael’s bagels even more magical – each is an individual with its own irregularities.

The bagels Michael will bake for us today, however, have been “maturing” in the fridge overnight.

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In small batches they are boiled for about a minute in water to which about a tablespoon full of barley malt syrup has been added.

It’s the boiling that gives the bagels their sheen, and the syrup that gives them their caramel colour.

From there, the bagels are left plain or dunked in poppy or seasame seeds, or a mixture of both with granulated garlic and onion.

Then they’re baked for about 20 minutes.

Demonstrating bagel versatility, we enjoy the bagel “pizzas” Michael has made for us as a late lunch snack, but we buy some cream cheese and smoked salmon on the way home for a more traditional and lovely bagel dinner.

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It makes us very happy that such an earthy, life-enhancing and ancient tradition is being continued right here in our west.

A list of current stockists of Michael’s bagels can be found on his website – here.

They include a mix of joints that sell bagels unadorned and cafes/eateries that are selling the bagels as prepared sandwiches of various kinds,

In the west, they include Scudela, Pepper Cafe and Wee Jeanie.

Michael is also making and selling cream cheese-based “schmears” to enjoy with his bagels – they come in plain, green onion and dill, and smoked salmon and chive flavours.

Michael will be at Williamstown Farmers Market, at Robertson Reserve, corner Cole and Hanmer streets, Williamstown, next Sunday (October 27) from 9am-1pm.

Rosen's Bagels on Urbanspoon

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