Art of cooking (Vetkoek)
Updated: Apr 5
Vetkoek (pronounced fet-cook) translates from Afrikaans to “fat cakes”. Vetkoek are deep fried dough balls (buns) and are similar to Dutch “oliebollen”, Mexican Sopapillas or Caribbean Johnny Cakes. Johnny Cakes morphed from “journey cakes” snacks workers enjoyed on their way to work. Similarly vetkoek also known as amagwinya is a popular meal for many people living in the South African townships and is sold by a wide variety of spaza shops, hawkers at taxi ranks, roadside vendors, and fast food shops located throughout South Africa. These deep-fried buns are a legacy of the Dutch presence which spread around the globe. In days gone by deep-fried bread outlasted baked bread & was a quicker & easier to prepare. Easy to see why it was a staple for the Voortrekkers & early settlers in new regions. It is served either with a savoury filling (typically cooked ground beef) or a sweet filling (syrup, honey, or jam). The traditional way to make vetkoek is to use a yeast bread dough, but the baking powder recipe is quick & simpler & allows you to rustle up some vetkoek at short notice. The yeast vetkoek with a bit of a crust moves it more into the bread field rather than bun domain I believe.
Baking powder Vetkoek
2 cups (500 ml) (260g) cake flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ t (2 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) milk
Enough oil for deep-frying (about 12 cm deep)
(You can replace the flour and baking powder with self-raising flour)
Sift the flour, baking powder and the salt together. Whisk the egg, milk and sugar.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, add milk and egg mixture and mix to very soft dough. Add more milk if necessary. I tend to make a very soft batter by adding a lot of milk. This is easier to work with but results in vetkoek which are only about 1 cm high. One can achieve more bulk with a stiffer batter.
Heat the oil to between 180 °C and 190°C.
Ladle level spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil (1 - 2 cm deep at least) and fry (flip) until brown on both sides. Remove, drain on absorbent paper & keep warm.
There is no limit to what can be eaten with the vetkoek either sweet or savoury. Diced sausages or bacon added to the batter take the savoury vetkoek to another level. Consumed cold the next morning they call for spreading with cheese & jam, or cheese & spicy chutney to get you into gear.
250g bread flour (2 cups)
250g all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
10g (2 teaspoon) salt
15ml (1 tablespoon) sugar
10g instant dry yeast
250ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
sunflower oil for deep-frying
(I use my bread maker – kneading & rising cycles)
Sift together flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and add instant yeast. Add lukewarm water and mix into a soft dough. Knead for at least 10 minutes, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place until double in size (1 – 2 hours). Divide dough & shape into balls which fit into the palm of your hand. For medium size divide dough into 12 equal pieces. For large 8, small 20. Space on floured baking sheet to allow for expanding, not to touch. Cover with cling wrap & let rise to double size (30 – 60 mins).
Heat oil in a deep saucepan. Check if hot enough by dropping in pinch of dough. Fry on medium high until brown and cooked through, about 3 mins per side. Drain on an absorbent paper and keep warm.