Monday, 27 May 2013

Vetkoek and Mince

In my mind, this is just the best South African meal. Ralph's cafeteria used to make it as a special on Thursdays and I would exercise extra hard just so that I could go over there and have some. I guess people who haven't tried it would compare it to a curry sloppy Joe? Except the vetkoek itself is so much better than just some roll.

I made this as the main course for our Mother's Day meal. Vetkoek is very similar to a dish my grandma used to make, and both my mom and I love to be reminded of her. In her recipe, she would make a mince mixture, and fold the dough around it, leaving some of it peeking out. I can still picture her tiny hands (is Radiohead playing in your head right now?) smoothly and professionally pulling and squeezing the dough wrap around the mince. 

I know people feel content with buying their mom presents and special meals for Mother's Day, and I tend to do the same. But is there ever really enough you can do to show your mom just how important she is? Does spending a day in the kitchen making her one special meal tell her how much it means to you that she made you mashed potatoes every day for months when you were little and refused to eat anything but that and pickles?

Vetkoek and Mince
From The Ultimate Book of Baking by Heilie Pienaar (no longer in print)

4 cups cake flour
15 ml sugar
3 ml salt
10 g instant dry yeast (1 packet)
30 ml sunflower or canola oil (I would even use olive)
About 400 ml lukewarm water
Sunflower or Canola oil, for deep frying

2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or crushed)
500 g lean beef mince
20 ml curry powder
5 ml masala
3 ml turmeric
2 ml ground cumin
3 medium potatoes, chopped into small cubes (I like very small)
1 medium carrot, grated
About 250ml beef stock

1) Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and yeast. 
2) Add oil. 
3) Add water, bit by bit, until the dough comes together. It should be quite soft. 
4) Knead until it becomes smooth and elastic. 
5) Place in a bowl covered in a damp cloth to rise, until doubled in size.
6) Knock down and knead a bit. Then divide into balls. I made roughly tennis-sized balls, but traditionally you would want them flattish and about double the diameter.
7) Heat the oil in a deep pot (oil should be at least 8-10 cm deep) on a medium heat. Fry the dough balls until deep brown. The larger the balls, the lower the heat, as you want them to cook through. Drain on a kitchen towel before serving.
Now for the mince:
8) Heat some oil in a large pan, fry onions until translucent, add the garlic and fry until fragrant.
9) Add the mince, and fry until brown and caramelised.
10) Add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. It should start smelling pretty fantastic.
11) Add potatoes and carrot, and add enough stock to cover everything. Cook until potatoes are tender, and sauce has thickened.
12) Serve warm mince inside the vetkoek, preferably very fresh, as it has a wonderful crunch when it is.

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