or, How not to be afraid of a soft dough!
Vesna Cvjetićanin was born in Yugoslavia in the 1960s and never imagined leaving it. However, in the early 1990s, she found herself moving to Australia with her young family, and has been living in Canberra ever since. A lawyer and public servant by profession, Vesna is now retired, and spends her time working as a mediator and interpreter, writing poetry, running two radio shows on Canberra’s 2XX FM (Multicultural Voices of the ACT, and Srbija u Mom Srcu [Serbia in my Heart]), and spending time with her children and grandchildren – not to mention her dear pup, Rikki the Whippet.
The recipe for this specialty food, mekike, runs in both sides of my family. My mother’s side had their version of it, and my husband’s mother’s side of the family had another. Both were based on the same principles, but each had their own little twists and turns… Following the two families’ traditions to make them as a filling breakfast for my own family every now and then, over time I have also developed my own.
Here is my version:
300g plain flour (must be of good quality!)
2 tablespoons semolina
200ml lukewarm water
50-80ml full cream milk
1 teaspoon dried yeast
60ml vegetable oil
Salt and a bit of sugar (to encourage the yeast to rise)
Mix everything in an electric mixer on low speed, slowly getting all the ingredients together. First mix the dry ingredients together, and then add the liquid ones. Let the mixer work the dough, and scrape the sides occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Take a pause for 15 minutes, then get it going again for another 5 minutes.
Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and gently knead it with your hands for 2-3 minutes, then shape it into a nice round ball and gently spread it out with a little extra oil. The dough should be soft and sticky. Smear it with a bit of oil, cover it with cling wrap and leave it to rise on a floured surface. I find it best if it’s left on a wooden chopping board for about 30 minutes.
Get a 20cm wide pot and pour oil into it to a depth of about 2cm. Heat it gently on a medium-hot stove. Meanwhile, get the dough and spread it with your palms and fingers until it is about 3cm thick. Get a large spoon (like a serving spoon), dip it into some extra oil and use it to roughly carve off pieces of the dough. Gently spread each piece with your fingers so it is of roughly equal thickness all around, then gently place it into the hot oil. Keep good control of the heat under the pot – it should not be so hot as to burn the mekike, but it should not be lukewarm either. The mekike will be done when they are a light-to-medium brown colour and attain a slight crunchy edge (like donuts).
Prepare a wide serving dish and line it with paper towels, to soak up any extra oil from the mekike. Take the mekike out of the hot oil with a wire skimmer spoon one by one, allowing the hot oil to drip off them as much as possible before transferring them to the serving dish.
Serve them savoury or sweet – whatever takes your fancy! We like to eat them with cottage cheese, ham or sour cream first, and then with jam, Nutella or rolled in some cinnamon sugar as a dessert. My personal favourite way to eat them is plain, with a big glass of butter milk!
© Vesna Cvjetićanin, 2021