It is an experience….a memory that doesn’t stretch too far into the past and has actually nothing to do with my mother or grandmother, or my childhood at home. Neither does it stay only a memory, and neither was it created in the kitchen. But it does take me down wander lane and I remember, and it does evoke a smile and I do have whiffs of aromas floating around me.

It is a memory that takes me back home. To where the mountains meet the seas and the vineyards in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Where a part of my heart will always be swirled up in the howl of the South-Easter wind, the gay dancing of the African sun and the misty spray of the winter rains. It takes me back to family. And it takes me back to friends.  To Mariaan and her vetkoek.


On our visits back home, a regular stop is at Vredenheim where we stay with good friends. We step into an old home, where the smell of wooden floors and the sound of farm life remind us that we’ve been away. Time falls away after the first coffee with an accompanying koeksister and we catch up on how much the kids have changed and grown, their exciting first jobs and the latest boyfriends…We tease about each other’s grey hair and giggle about all our new little habits.  We dig into the latest gossip and ooh about the recent marriages and sigh about sad losses.


As the sun sets magically over the mountains, the evening comes alive with  the clinging of wine glasses and popping of corks, feminine giggles in the kitchen and woody cracklings of the starting barbecue fire. It is time for braaivleis, traditional way. Real wingerdstompies (vineyard stumps) ; no gas or bought charcoal or brickets or fancy tools. Fresh meat. Fresh simple salads. And vetkoek, drizzled with golden syrup, or draped with spoonfuls of homemade apricot jam.

We sit back by the cleared table; dishes cleaned, last coffee of the day. We start telling our stories, filled with history and culture, nostalgia and invention. We exaggerate, we colour, we gesture, we interrupt, we laugh.  And finally, when the moon starts nodding and the night becomes very quiet, we move on to our rooms, content with being who we are and where we are.

An old memory has come alive, pulsating with the excitement of new details and it will always be the same and it will always be different and it will aways be precious.

Mariaan’s vetkoek

  • 1 c lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dry yeast
  • 500 g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 11/2 tsp melted butter
  • Oil for deep frying
  1. Pour half of the water over the sugar and dry yeast. Leave aside for 15 minutes until foamy.
  2. Mix the salt in to the flour. Pour the flour onto a flat surface and make a well in the middle. Pour the yeast and melted butter into the well.
  3. Mice with your fingers and add more water until you have a dough that can be kneaded. Knead well, cover and leave aside in a warm corner to rise until twice the original size.
  4. Heat up the oil and test with a small piece of dough….if sizzling, the oil is ready.
  5. Keep the temperature low. Pinch a round ball from the dough, the size of a walnut.  Flatten and stretch it out and fry in the oil until a nice golden colour. Remove from the oil and drain on toweling paper.
  6. Serve with a nice honey, or syrup, jam of your choice, grated cheese or a filling of curried ground beef, or chicken…any filling of your choice. It is delicious slightly warm,  but is just as great cold.
  7. If you want it real easy…..ask your baker for a handful of his bread dough, go home, pinch off some pieces and just deep fry it!



This is an entry for Apples and Thyme. See Inge at Africanvanielje and Jeni at the Passionate palate for more.

14 thoughts on “Mariaan’s “vetkoek”…. for apples and thyme…

  1. What beautiful post ,Ronell. Full of sweet memories, I almost can feel the aromas reading your post. And I appreciates Stellenbosch wines too
    The “vetkoek” shape reminds me a bignets, and those sounds delicious for me. Congratulation for this amazing entry and the fabulous photos.


  2. Oh Ronell, now you make ME homesick!! One of our favourite treats as kids on a Friday night was when my mom made vetkoek. Seeing as they were to be a main meal and not just a snack or a sweet, she would fill each one either with a lump fo cheese or a piece of sausage before frying them. Waiting for her to finish frying them was like agony – we got hungrier by the minute. But when we got to eat – oh what bliss!


  3. Ronell reminiscing about old times gives so much pleasure.I’ve been thinking of my family too, for the past couple of days … i miss home 🙂 reading your post brought a smile to my face 🙂


  4. Ronell, I love vetkoek. Just the name conjures up comfort doesn’t it. Thank you so much for joining us in Apples & Thyme, your story reached right into my African heart and made it ache with love and longing. God, I miss those beautiful mountains!


  5. Thank you for taking me to Africa where I’ve oft longed to go. Lovely description, I could just imagine myself relaxing and laughing at your friends’ table. Thank you for posting!


  6. What beautiful imagery! It makes me look even more forward to visiting my hometown where I grew up. The vetkoek look similar to Mexican sopapillas, which are fried, pillowy dough, also filled with honey or apple butter. Such a wonderful treat!


  7. Ronnell, I haven’t visited your wonderful blog for a while so it was a pleasure spending time reading your new posts. As always, I enjoy your writing and lovely photos (South Africa!) I checked out your library. You have many cookbooks I am unfamiliar with – but I know I would never have been able to resist the cookbook titled “Rude Food, Nude Food, Good Food,” had I seen it at a bookstore! Does it liveup to its title? (We know there can NEVER be too many cookbooks or art books on our shelves, right?) The photos of your rustic kitchen are a special treat! And now I have knife envy…my husband and I are always muttering about needing to buy some new knives. Your kitchen looks so charming, very different from typical kitchens in the U.S. Here most of what is interesting tends to be hidden behind the doors of the wall-to-wall upper and lower cabinets. I must ask – Will we soon be seeing Ronell’s favorite Christmas dinner menu (and recipes) posted on your blog for inspiration? (I’m having ten guests for Christmas dinner and I refuse to make another holiday dinner of ham or turkey.) I’ll be checking back, but now I must go prepare food for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast.


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