As much as I’d love to say I’ve got a zen-like calm about me, quite content to watch a loaf of bread ferment for 12 hours, I’m afraid the opposite is true. And when nostalgia takes hold of me, I get even more impatient. Vetkoek was always a big fat treat in our house – especially when drenched in raw farm honey (although most of the time I actually preferred golden syrup) – and it was one of my mother’s go-to treats. But this is where my problem with the traditional vetkoek lies: the sourdough version takes far too long. I can’t wait! Behold the fast vetkoek for a sinfully delicious Sunday breakfast… lunch… or dinner, for that matter, smothered in butter and honey. Pssstt! And there’s nothing wrong with substituting all of the above with golden syrup.
They don’t call it a “fat cake” for nothing. Once you’ve made what is essentially a sourdough, these fist-sized morsels are dropped in sizzling-hot oil to cook (and to attain its characteristically tanned, crispy exterior). Interestingly, this traditional South African snack’s heritage can be traced to both Afrikaans and Zulu culture, and is often served with savoury mince, cheese, biltong, any jam, honey or syrup imaginable, and of course, butter. Back in the pioneering days of the Great Trek, these doughy delights were far simpler and easier to make than bread, and embraced by all who sampled them.
280 g (500 ml) cake flour
20 ml baking powder
2 ml salt
15 ml butter
250 milk – maybe a little more
750 ml canola oil
Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl.
Rub the butter in and add the milk. Mix with a knife until a dough forms. If the dough looks too dry, add a little more milk. The consistency of the dough should be like dropped scones.
Heat the oil in large saucepan. Spoon a small piece of dough into the oil. The oil will be ready once the dough starts frying – not too quickly – until it gets a golden colour. Lower the heat to medium.
Spoon the dough into the oil, 2 to 3 pieces at a time, and fry until golden brown (about 3 minutes per side).
Drain on a kitchen towel and keep warm while frying the rest.
Serve warm with whatever condiments will bring back those treasured childhood memories.
TO SIEVE OR NOT TO SIEVE
The reason why you sieve your dry ingredients is to make sure it mixes well. But you don’t always have to use an actual sieve: we’re not talking precision baking here. Simply whisk the dry ingredients together with a fork. It works just as well.