Just like America has doughnuts, Northern Italy has bomboloni, Britain has Yorkshire puddings and France has beignets, South Africa has vetkoek. Their origins, I’m told, lie in Dutch immigrant’s recipe for oliebolle.
Vetkoek is traditionally made with a yeasty bread dough that is shaped into balls (sometimes flattened slightly) before being fried in plenty of hot oil until golden brown and slightly swollen, with a soft, bread-like centre – heaven!
The traditional recipe using yeast gives you a light, airy vetkoek similar to a doughnut. The dough can also be wrapped around a filling before you fry it.
But if you’re short on time, by all means make the baking powder version. It will be a little heavier, but you will be rewarded with a delicate and delicious crust.
In Faldela Williams’ The Cape Malay Cookbook – first published way back in 1988 and now in reprint – she offers her favourite quick vetkoek recipe that can be used either sweet or savoury. Once cooked, they look similar to the banana doughnut fritters in the picture below.
I called her to ask if she had changed her recipe in any way, and she says while traditional vetkoek is always on her menu, during Ramadan she prefers to make banana vetkoekies. She generously shared her recipe with me:
Faldela’s banana vetkoekies
1. Sift together 2 cups selfraising flour, a pinch of salt and 1 T sugar.
2. Beat 2 eggs with 1 t vanilla essence (or caramel essence) and 200 ml milk.
3. Add 2 ripe bananas, cut into chunks or rings, then mix all the ingredients together to from a drop-like consistency.
4. Shallow-fry spoonsful in hot oil, drain and serve sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
For 20 of Faldela’s vetkoekies that you can use either sweet or savoury, you’ll need to do the following:
1. Sift 2 cups cake flour with 2 t baking powder and 1 t salt. Mix 2 eggs, beaten well, with 1 cup milk and 1 T melted butter.
2. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir well to make a smooth thick batter.
3. Heat 2 cups of oil in a deep frying pan and drop the batter, 1 T at a time, into it.
4. Fry for 2 minutes on one side, or until golden, then turn with a slotted spoon and fry other side until brown, about another 2 minutes, depending on the size.
5. Drain in a colander and serve with jam and butter, simply dusted with cinnamon sugar or filled with curried mince
FUN AND DIFFERENT WAYS TO SERVE YOUR VETKOEK
Sweet: Obviously you can’t beat a hot-out-of-the-fryer, slightly oily vetkoek served with home-made apricot jam or cardamom chocolate ganache, but what I really love to eat it with is my own sweet butter. All you do is add lashings to hot vetkoek and watch it disappear as it seeps in; the vetkoek absorbing all of the flavours like a sweet sponge.
To make sweet berry butter, soften 250 g butter but be careful not to let it melt. Drain ½ cup of Woolies’ frozen summer berries and chop them up finely before mixing into the softened butter with 3 T of icing sugar, adding more sugar or berries to taste.
Spoon the butter onto clingwrap and roll into a cylinder shape before twisting each end to secure and chill in the fridge until ready to use. Slice a round from the cylinder and plop over freshly made, hot vetkoek. Try adding other fruit combinations to your butter, like grated pineapple and mint or finely chopped figs.
Savoury: I like to make my own falafels and sandwich them between my vetkoek ‘buns’, drizzled with a minted yoghurt and served with a fresh coleslaw.
To make my falafels I mash a 400-g can of chickpeas with a finely chopped red onion, two crushed cloves of garlic, 1 t toasted cumin, ½ t sweet smoked paprika, 2 T chopped coriander, a sqeeze of lemon juice, a good drizzzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.
I then mould the mixture into bite-sized balls and dust them in seasoned flour and toasted sesame seeds before frying them in hot oil until golden and crisp.
Tip: Add a couple of tablespoons of bread crumbs to the mixture if you want to make it go further.