Vetkoek is a traditional South African dish often sold at fairs and Friday night church fundraisers. Most Afrikaans speaking, Millenial, South Africans grew up with passionate churchgoing parents and I remember many Friday nights as a little girl going to church to collect our Vetkoeke for dinner. It’s a bit of a treat and not something that is eaten every day, to me it is soul food. I’d say it’s probably as comforting as sausage and bean casserole or fish and chips.
What is Vetkoek?
A vetkoek, directly translated as fat cake or grease cake, is a deep-fried bread bun with a filling. In South Africa, you can often buy already risen bread dough from the supermarket to use for a quick version, but if you’re elsewhere it’s likely that you’ll have to make the vetkoek dough at home. It’s a straightforward process, that requires a little bit of time as do bread making.
South Africans are well known for their meat obsession and serve this deep-fried delight with a curry mince filling, but I wanted to try it with a vegetarian filling as we are actively eating less meat and more veggies for health and sustainability.
Being a great supporter of the real food flexitarian diet, this is something my grandma, perhaps not yours, will recognise so to me it’s fine to eat on occasion, even if it’s a deep-fried bread bun. I’m sure your grandmother will agree as it’s definitely something to try at least once.
If you would like to make this with a mince filling, I’ve used the same basic spices to flavour the veggie option as you would the mince so you should be safe to substitute the black beans with 500g beef mince.
Vetkoek with Black Bean and Vegetable Curry Filling
For the Vetkoek Dough
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dried active yeast
- 2 1/2 cups plain organic flour (I mix my flour to be 2 cups of plain and 0.5 cups of gluten-free as it seems to stop sensitivities in our household)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp extrra virgin olive oil
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
For the Black Bean Filling
- 1 organic onion chopped
- 1 organic carrot chopped
- 100g organic frozen peas
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp mild curry powder
- 1 tsp coriander leaf
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp organic apricot jam or a good quality chutney
- 400g can organic black beans with liquid
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Fresh coriander, sliced cheese, a few slices of red pepper and humous to serve
Prepare the Vetkoek Dough
- Mix the sugar and luke-warm water until dissolved. Add the oil and yeast, mix lightly with a fork and let it stand until the yeast gets frothy and rises to the top.
- Add the salt and plain flour together in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Then add the water mixture to the flour and kneed for about 10 minutes until smooth. I use a Kenwood Chef mixer which helps to speed up this process a bit.
- Let the dough rest in a warm place, covered with a moist tea towel for 50 mins.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, divide into four equal portions and shape into smooth round buns, then coat each bun with a little bit of oil. This is an essential step as the oil ensures the vetkoek is crispy but not too hard. Cover with a moist tea towel and let it rest for another 20 minutes.
Prepare Curry the Filling
- Fry the onion and cherry tomatoes on medium heat and cook roughly for 5 minutes until it softens. Then add the curry powder, coriander, garam masala and turmeric to the pan and cook another minute until they become fragrant.
- Next add the peas, carrots, apricot jam and a little bit of water. Cook for around 15 minutes until the carrots are nice and soft.
- While the carrots are cooking, add the black beans with liquid and all into a small saucepan. Add the balsamic vinegar, tomato puree and cook over medium heat until the liquid disappears and the beans become a little mushy.
- Then add the curried carrots and peas to the beans, mix well and season to taste.
- Put the lid on and put on very low heat to keep warm while you deep-fry the dough.
Fry the Vetkoek
- Fill a medium-sized saucepan with about 2 cm of oil, it should be just enough to cover one side of the bun and not the whole bun as you’ll be turning them over. If you are using a deep-fat fryer you can dunk them in and submerge. Fry until golden brown in hot oil, turning once or twice to make sure both sides are cooked.
- Remove the vetkoek from the oil and let it cool down for a few minutes, then cut and fill as you would with a hamburger bun.
- Add fresh coriander, cheese, humous and a few slices of pepper to serve.
- You can use any extra left-over filling for a jacket potato or sandwich filling the next day so don’t discard.
It is also safe to reuse the oil, no need to chuck it out. Just let it cool and put it into your normal oil container for next time, there shouldn’t be any bits in the oil after making the recipe, but if there are some floaty bits just put the oil through a fine-mesh strainer before pouring back into your container.