Vicki Fryer makes kourabiethes and avgo lemono

Vicki Fryer cooks her kourabiethes using a recipe from a Greek cookbook which was gifted to her by her aunt in 1978.
Vicki Fryer cooks her kourabiethes using a recipe from a Greek cookbook which was gifted to her by her aunt in 1978.

LONG time Bunbury resident Vicki Fryer (nee Sofilas) was working as a supervisor in the cosmetics and accessories department at the old Stirlings store when the phone rang.

"It was a man on the phone and he said 'you don't know me, but I've seen you'," she said.

"He worked with a Greek boy I knew and he had been asking him if I was single. It was during late night trading on a Thursday when he came into the store to introduce himself."

"As soon as he entered the store all the phones were going off in the departments because everyone knew he was coming in to see me."

It was the beginning of Vicki and Gordon's love story which soon turned into an engagement and then into a traditional Greek wedding at the St Nicholas Orthodox Church.

"I still lived at home when I met Gordon, we hadn't lived together beforehand."

For this week's In My Kitchen, Mrs Fryer made kourabiethes (greek shortbread) and avgo lemono (egg and lemon soup).

But kourabiethes, or 'kroombies' as her children would call them, are much more than just a biscuit to Mrs Fryer; they're a reminder of when she went on her first date with Gordon as well as a symbol of bringing people together.

"I was at home baking these biscuits when the phone rang. It was Gordon asking me if I wanted to go out for coffee sometime. So I went and that was that. One month later we were engaged and the following year we were married."

"I make them all year round for everyone, people always want them. If someone is coming over or I'm going somewhere, I bring my kourabiethes with me in tins and covered with icing sugar."

Between cooking the kroombies, Mrs Fryer flicked through her wedding album and reflected on her life in Bunbury.

Whilst both her and her parents were born in Australia, Mrs Fryer's grandparents came from the Greek islands.

"My grandparents on both sides came to Australia because there wasn't much work on the islands and they wanted a better life. My grandfather lived on Richmond street in East Bunbury. He was a sponge diver and would dive and go underwater all the way to the Parade Hotel."

"I was at home baking my kourabiethes when the phone rang. It was Gordon asking me if I wanted to go out for coffee, and that was it. We were engaged one month later."

Vicki Fryer

Although her mother cooked at home, Mrs Fryer didn't recall having any interest in cooking until she completed an international cooking class whilst completing year 11 and 12 at Bunbury Senior High School.

Mrs Fryer said the Greek community in Bunbury was now sadly fading due to Greeks intermarrying and no longer coming to Bunbury due to the current restrictions on travel.

She said although Gordon isn't Greek, she continues the Greek traditions of cooking for her two children, 25-year-old Dylan and 23-year-old Sophie.

"My kids really like the Greek traditions of things, especially Greek Easter. They both love to cook, especially Dylan. They always called my kourabiethes 'kroombies' because they found it difficult to pronounce them."

Kourabiethes, or Greek shortbreads, are made using butter, flour, egg yolk brandy, toasted almonds and icing sugar.

Once a dough is formed, they are moulded into crescent like shapes.

Mrs Fryer puts a clove in the end of each kroombie which is traditional for Easter and Christmas.

"I sat with my kids and made these biscuits with them since they were little. I'd give them their own trays and tins to put them in because they always made funny shapes."

Whilst her children were in school, Mrs Fryer would always make their lunches and morning tea instead of giving them money for the canteen.

She recalled a time when Dylan would ask for more snacks for school.

"I would make homemade popcorn for him and I remember thinking gosh Dylan you're eating a lot of popcorn. Then I found out he was selling it at school and using the money to buy snacks from the canteen," Mrs Fryer laughed.

She said it was very important for children to know about their culture and the sacrifices families make.

"My grandparents used to work really hard to put food on the table. When I was a child we used to go to their house and my grandmother would take us out the back where she had one of those old fashioned larders with the wooden doors and fly screens. She always had something in there that she could give us to eat."

In a homage to her mother, Mrs Fryer also made avgo lemono (egg and lemon soup) using her traditional Greek recipe.

"First you boil the chicken with carrot, onion, peppercorns and parsley and then beat some eggs up separately and add lemon juice to the eggs. It then goes on the stove with some stock. This is what all Greek kids eat as they grow up."

Mrs Fryer volunteers at Bunbury Gardens Care Community, Opal Health Care where she has been cooking for the elderly residents for 17 years.

She frequently makes kourabiethes for the residents, as well as Greek honey puffs which are donuts drizzled with honey and cinnamon.

"We started a cooking group for the residents and they love it. It's a great chance for me to share my love of cooking with the community."

Do you know a local who loves to cook? Send an email to pip.waller@bunburymail.com.au.