Friday, 6 June 2014

Koeksisters – Doughnuts, South African style!

I was extremely fortunate to visit Cape Town in South Africa as part of the final of MasterChef Ireland 2014. It was an experience that I think Diana, Edel and I will always remember. South Africa is a truly beautiful country and the people are so warm and welcoming.

This was not the first time that I had visited South Africa. I was born in Zambia and as a child, had lived there and in Zimbabwe, sometimes taking trips down to South Africa. I have very vivid memories of my childhood spent in Africa and have always said that I would like to revisit. However, even in my wildest imagination, I don’t think that I ever thought that I would return to the African continent as part of a televised cookery competition. I still cannot believe that it happened and looking back on it all, there is definitely something surreal about the whole experience. One thing remains true; I still consider myself to be one of the luckiest people to have had the privilege to have been part of MasterChef Ireland. It sounds incredibly corny but it really made so many of my dreams come true and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the production team with special thanks going to Niamh Maher, the series producer.

Whilst in South Africa we were exposed to some of best ingredients we had ever encountered, many of which we had never used before and which were completely alien to us. The fantastic produce coupled with meeting two truly inspirational chefs – Margot Janse of Le Quartier Francais and Luke Dale Roberts of The Test Kitchen, made the whole trip to South Africa a truly memorable experience.

I have been playing around with quite a few recipe ideas inspired by the trip to South Africa and will be posting them over the coming weeks, but to kick things off, I have chosen to give a recipe for Koeksisters, which are a syrup drenched doughnut much beloved throughout the whole country but particularly around the Cape. The braided doughnuts, glistening after having they spicy syrup bath look so tempting, almost as if they are begging to be eaten.
I’m not going to lie… these doughnuts ARE sweet, but they are so delectable. I dread to think of the calorie count, but in my humble opinion a little of what you fancy every now and again is good for the psyche. And eating these definitely makes me feel that all’s right with the world!
The main tip when making these is to make sure that the syrup into which you plunge the just-fried doughnuts is well chilled. The syrup needs to be made at least a day in advance, but once made it will keep, refrigerated, for a week or more. The finished doughnuts keep relatively well, but taste at their very best if eaten within a few hours of being made.

I love the slightly peppery ginger flavour of the syrup which I think counteracts some of the overall sweetness of the doughnuts but I also think a syrup with extra lemon included would serve the same purpose. To be honest, I am normally such a lemon addict; I decided that this time I would try something a little different.


500ml water
800g sugar
½tsp salt
2½ tsp cream of tartar
Juice of half a lemon
1 cinnamon stick
30ml ginger syrup (or 1tsp ground ginger)
150g self-raising flour
100g cornflour
2tsp baking powder
25g caster sugar
25g butter, melted
25ml cream
1 large egg
To finish:
Vegetable oil


1. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Bring gradually up to the boil and then reduce the heat, so that the syrup is gently bubbling away. Allow to bubble for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate overnight so that the syrup is well chilled.
2. Sift the self-raising flour, cornflour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar mix it in. Make a well in the centre and add the butter, cream and egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together to form a dough. Bring the dough together into a ball, wrap in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To finish:
3. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out strips of the dough about 12-15cms long and 1cm thick. Taking three strips at a time, plait the dough together by tucking the strands together at the top and folding the outer strips over in turn into the middle, repeating until you reach the end. Finish my tucking together at the end.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer (or carefully in a large saucepan, filled one third full of oil) until it reaches 170C-180C. Fry the doughnuts in batches of three or four for about five minutes, regularly turning them with a slotted spoon so that they cook evenly. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon. Briefly place on some kitchen roll to soak up excess oil and then soak in the syrup for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Makes 10.

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