Vetkoek and curried mince. Spicy mince served inside a traditional vetkoek – a great alternative to the normal curry and rice.
A Vetkoek is a deep-fried ball of bread dough, crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Vetkoek is normally served split in half and filled with your meat of choice.
It translates as Fat Cake and is pronounced Fet Cook. It is a bit like sheep, in that it is both singular and plural.
Vetkoek originated with the Dutch settlers, back in the 17th Century. As they explored further and further away from Cape Town into the interior in their covered wagons, they had no fresh bread and they didn’t have ovens to bake in. The alternative was to make deep fried dough balls instead. Filled with meat they made a quick and satisfying meal.
Nowadays vetkoek is a popular South African dish. No self-respecting school or church fete would be complete without a Vetkoek stall.
Vetkoek are normally filled with curried beef mince, but lamb would go really well with them. Try them with my lamb curry in pita, using vetkoek instead of pita bread. They would go down a treat at a barbeque, filled with sausage and smothered in chilli tomato sauce.
You can also serve them smeared with butter and apricot jam (or honey, or maple syrup, or cheese, or anything else that takes your fancy). My daughter puts golden syrup on hers.
Are Vetkoek unhealthy?
Now I know you are going to think that deep fried dough balls are really unhealthy and fattening, but to be honest, they don’t absorb much oil from the frying. Also, they are drained on kitchen paper afterwards, which soaks off a bit more oil.
They have a slightly chewy texture which means the muscles in your fact get lots of exercise from all the chewing you have to do. There is a saying that eating a stick of celery burns off more calories than are actually in the celery itself. I like to believe that Vetkoek falls into this category (I know it doesn’t but it takes away the guilt trip when I eat them).
I’m a firm believer that everything should be done in moderation. If you eat vetkoek every day, you will end up looking like one, but one or two every now and then won’t do any harm.
How do you make Vetkoek and Curried Mince?
First you make the Vetkoek
Vetkoek are made with yeast. There, I’ve said it but don’t let it put you off. They are made with instant yeast, not the sort that you have to mix with lukewarm water and flour and wait until it gets all frothy on top before you can use it. With instant yeast, you just tear open a packet and add it to the flour, and you won’t even realise you are using yeast.
I use my trusty Kenwood Chef to do the mixing, but you can easily knead the dough by hand. (Why not check out these Food Mixers on Amazon – there’s a huge supply and you might just find one that you like)
Step 1 – sprinkle the yeast onto the flour and give it a bit of a mix. Then add the salt. Don’t let the yeast come into direct contact with the salt.
Step 2 – add most of the water, give it a good stir until it all comes together and then knead for 5 to 10 minutes until you have a nice elastic dough. The reason you don’t add all the water is that it all depends on the flour you are using. You might not need all the water, and once you’ve put it in, you can’t take it out again. If you find you do need more water, just add it one tablespoon at a time until the dough is nice and soft. The ratio of flour to water should be approximately 2 flour : 1 water.
Step 3 – cover the mixing bowl with cling film, then cover it with a towel to keep it nice and warm. Put it in a warm place to allow the yeast to work its magic. I put mine on the kitchen window sill. Leave for about an hour. The dough should rise up and become spongy
Step 4 – Once the dough has risen, punch it down into a ball and put on a floured board.
Step 5 – Break off golf-ball sized pieces of dough and press them into flat rounds. You could roll the dough out and cut circles with a pastry cutter if you prefer, but I like the irregular sized pieces.
Step 6 – Deep fry in hot oil, turning occasionally, until nicely puffed and golden. Tip, don’t let the oil get too hot or you will find the outside burns and the inside is still doughy.
|Vetkoek ready to rise||Nicely risen||Spongy texture||Make flat rounds||Deep fry until golden|
Next you make the mince curry
While the dough is rising, you can make the curry.
Step 1 – gently fry the spices in a little olive oil. This releases all the aromas.
Step 2 – add the mince and allow it to brown in the spices and oil. You will have to keep stirring and break up the lumps of mince with a wooden spoon.
Step 3 – add the onions and celery and fry with the mince until the onion starts to soften.
Step 4 – add the tomatoes and tomato puree, the chutney and the sugar and salt. I always add a teaspoon of sugar when I am cooking with tomatoes – it seems to cut through the tartness and brings out the tomato flavour.
Step 5 – add the carrots, potatoes and beef stock.
Step 6 – let it simmer, with the lid on, for about 45 minutes until it is all cooked through and is nice and juicy. If there is too much liquid in the mince, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes or so.
Step 7 – add the frozen peas and stir through. Keep the curry warm while you fry the vetkoek.
To serve, split each vetkoek in half and fill with the curry mixture. A spoonful of chutney on top makes a nice addition. You could eat this with a knife and fork, but I think it tastes better if you pick it up in your hands and eat it like a hamburger. Keep plenty of serviettes handy to wipe the juices off your chin!
South African Vetkoek filled with Curried Mince
For the Vetkoek
- 2 cups Plain Flour
- 1 7g packet dried instant Yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm Water approximately
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- Sunflower oil for frying
For the Curried Mince
- 250 g Beef Mince
- 250 g Pork Mince You could leave out the pork and use 500 g beef mince instead
- 2 large potatoes chopped into small dice
- 1 large onion chopped into small dice
- 1 large stick celery chopped into small dice
- 1 large carrot chopped into small dice
- 2 large Tomatoes finely chopped
- 3 Tablespoons Tomato Puree
- 2 Tablespoons Chutney I use Mango chutney, but you can use your favourite brand
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- ½ cup frozen petit pois
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Beef Stock (you can make this with a stock cube)
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil for frying
For the Spice Mix
- 2 Tablespoons Garam Masala
- 2 Tablespoons Hot Curry Powder we like it hot, you could use Medium for a milder taste
- 1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon All Spice
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
For the Vetkoek
- Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the mixing bowl and add the yeast. Don't put the yeast directly on the salt.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the water and stir to combine.
- Knead for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic
- Cover the bowl with cling-film, then cover with a small towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
- Once the vetkoek has risen (it will have a spongy texture if you pull your fingers across the surface), punch it down and form it into a soft ball and place it on a floured board.
- You can either roll out with a rolling pin, and cut into pieces or break off golf-ball sized pieces of dough and flatten into thin rounds.
- Heat sufficient Sunflower Oil to deep fry the vetkoek. Test the oil by dropping a small ball of dough It should sizzle and rise to the surface immediately if the oil is hot enough.
- Place 2 or 3 rounds of dough (depending on the size of your pan) at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. You will have to turn them in the oil to ensure they cook on both sides. Don't allow the oil to get too hot or they will burn.
- Drain on kitchen paper towels
For the Curried Mince
- Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan or wok and heat gently.
- Mix all the spice ingredients together, add to the pan and fry gently to release the aromas.
- Add the beef and pork, break it up in the spices with a wooden spoon, and fry gently until it is all separated and no longer pink.
- Add the onions and celery and fry with the meat for a couple of minutes until it starts to soften
- Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, chutney and salt and stir through.
- Add the carrots and potatoes and mix to combine.
- Add the beef stock and bring to the boil
- Put a lid on the pan and allow to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evapourated. This should take approximately 45 minutes.
- Add the frozen peas and stir through. Heat a couple of minutes more until the peas are hot.
- Split each vetkoek down the middle and fill with the mince mixture.
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If you enjoyed my Vetkoek and Curried Mince, why not try my other South African recipes? Do you have your own favourite South African recipe? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try and include it on the site for you.