Adventures in Student Cooking: Bootleg Possum Magic

9 April 2019

I’ve been on exchange for around three months now. Overall, it’s been a pretty incredible experience; I love living in Amsterdam (not for the reasons that immediately come to mind) and it’s been amazing to sample the different foods available here. Though I am partial to liquorice or a good stroopwafel, bouts of homesickness do pop up. So here’s a few recipes to help you, if you ever feel the same; whether you’re on exchange or just feeling particularly nostalgic about Possum Magic.

Cheesy little vegemite

Basically a vegemite and cheese pizza. After getting my mum to mail over some vegemite, I’ve found this is the easiest way to get a taste of home while in the Netherlands.

True to form, this recipe is ridiculously simple:

1 Tortilla


Cheese: some grated, to sprinkle, and some stronger to add flavour.

Honestly, for this you just spread a generous layer of vegemite on your tortilla and add a bunch of cheese. I’ve been using this recipe to chip away at a giant piece of Gouda that I spent WAY too much money on (thanks to a very attractive salesperson and my desire to immediately immerse myself in the good parts of Dutch food culture).

Also, it’s really fun to horrify your friends with vegemite (especially when they think it’s Nutella and eat it off a spoon). Strongly recommend it.

Meat not-pie

it’s entirely possible to make your own decent meat pies. I’m fully aware of this. And yet I’ve found myself wanting another kind: the 7/11 pie.

I deeply miss it; I crave it.

While nothing will fully satisfy my need for a pie that’s the perfect savoury taste but actually complete crap, I’ve found a way to allay the craving, at least temporarily.

1 tub of beef mince (or vegan alternative)

1 small tin of tomatoes

Mixed spices

Stock (as needed)

1/2 onion (SHOCKING, I know), diced

1 tomato, diced

Tomato sauce

2 pieces of toast

Sorry for the “mixed spice” directive. The truth is, I just use what I can find in the surprisingly well stocked pantry of the student I am subletting from and it varies each time I make it. It usually turns out okay (I never claimed I was a fine chef).

  1. Chop onions (and cry in the process, which is just a chemical reaction but also strangely cathartic). Sauté in a pan.
  2. Add your mince and tinned tomatoes, as well as your spices. Sometimes I add stock and sometimes I don’t; it just depends on how it comes together.
  3. Put your toast on.
  4. Add mince to toast. Add diced tomato on top, if you like (read: if you want to feel a bit healthier). Add as much tomato sauce as you can stand.

This is basically mince on toast, I know. But it keeps me from missing home too much, especially when combined with a phone call to Mum. Also, if you ARE in Australia, and you DO make this recipe, don’t tell me how bad it is, because I’ll still like it.

Bonus: fairy bread isn’t as special as you think, but Melbourne is

When I first arrived, one of my most surprising experiences was discovering the Dutch invention of hagelslag—literally “toast sprinkles”. As iconic as fairy bread is in Australia, the Dutch seem to be a lot more dedicated to the cuisine that is ‘shaped sugar on buttered bread’. In fact, Dutchies eat 14 million kilos of the stuff every year. To put this in perspective, the population of the Netherlands is around 17 million.

Sprinkles on toast is a totally normal breakfast; the sprinkles are normally chocolate flavoured, and long rather than round, which in my opinion totally makes it not fairy bread. There’s also the bizarrely named (and pretty aggressively gendered) muisjes, literally “mice”, which are served after a baby is born in pink or blue on special bread. So basically, what I’m saying is: we need to step up our game. There’s around 25 million people in Australia; if we’re going to rival the Dutch, we need to consume around 20.6 million kilos of fairy bread this year. Now you have an excuse to eat fairy bread every day.

While traditional “Australian” food (i.e. food traditional to colonial white Australia) isn’t anything to write home about, (even if I am literally writing home about it), I still miss it. What I don’t have a recipe for though, and miss more than anything, is the culinary diversity on offer in Melbourne. Amsterdam claims to be a global city, but Melbourne’s diversity is by no means rivalled here—particularly in its pricing. I miss being able to go downstairs and get a cheap, fantastic curry, or walk around the corner and get a great sushi roll for $1.50. Those foods are a whole lot harder to recreate in my apartment though, so APPRECIATE THEM. And get some sushi for me.

P.S. If anyone wants to send me those instant cups of Mac’n’Cheese PLEASE do. That’s the only comfort food I haven’t found a replacement for. Please help.


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