Like the gemmer/ ginger beer recipe I posted on this blog previously this is one of those things you grow up eating but never quite know the recipe for. My gran can’t give measurements off the top of her head but she knows how to make them with her eyes closed. Growing up in Soweto I remember the image of old mama’s carrying large buckets early in the morning, it was only once I got a bit older I realised they were carrying magwinya in the buckets to go sell at taxi ranks, busstops, train stations and anywhere and everywhere there was foot traffic.
Magwinya are the township version of vetkoek. Vetkoek (pronounce ‘Fet-cook’ and literally means ‘fat cake’) is a uniquely South African deep fried bread. Afrikaans in origine, research (i.e. the Internet) reckons they were originally a Dutch creation which the early Afrikaans folk tweeked over time. So like most Afrikaans South African food, its borrowed…but who cares.
Magwinya are the version we get in townships. The difference between them and vetkoek? Well magwinya tend to be a bit sweeter than traditional vetkoek. From personal opinion I think they also often tend to be a bit lighter and softer but this depends on who has made them and what ingredients they’ve used. Vetkoek are usually sliced open and stuffed with grated cheese, mince or even jam, being lovers of grease, in the townships we eat them with fried chips, achaar, polony, cheese or snoek fish (a type of salted and dried South African fish). I always argue with people that having such a greasy meal for breakfast is bad for you but my words fall on deaf ears, you’ll see many people eating them with tea in the morning. There’s no rules to it, like I said, they’re basically a fried bread…so the fillings can be anything you like.
This recipe is the one I found works for me. Being a chef, curiosity got the better of me and I’ve experimented with techniques. I’ve found that using a mixer (either a standing or hand one, it doesn’t matter) makes for a softer result that is less dense. Here’s another tip I learned whilst dealing with fried food…the more sugar in something, the darker the colour will be and the more crispy the outside.
Ok, enough talking. Enjoy…
7 cups cake flour (not self-raising flour)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 packet Yeast (10g)
Cooking oil (for frying)
* In a small jug pour about a cup of warm water and add the yeast. Leave to begin foaming
* In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients together and then pour in the yeast. Stir
* Add more lukewarm water and mix after each addition until you get a soft dough that is soft but not runny (like a bread dough).
* Mix with a mixer that has dough hooks attached until the dough starts coming away from the sides. If you don’t have a mixer use your hands and knead for about 15mins. (This is important if you want soft magwinya)
* Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap that’s bean brushed with oil and allow to rise until double (about an hour).
* Heat about 2 litres of oil in a pot or deep heavy-based pan
* Magwinya are typically round in shape and a little smaller than tennis balls but its up to you what shape you make them. Roll them into balls with your hands (brush your hands with some oil to stop them from sticking) or roll the dough out flat on a floured work surface and flatten with a roller and cut into rectangular “blocks”.
* Test the oil with a small piece of dough, if the dough starts bubbling and rises, the oil is hot enough. Maintain its temperature by reducing the heat now and then. You don’t want the oil too hot. Once the oil is ready. Deep fry the vetkoek.
* Keep turning them. Ready when golden brown
* Place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Serve
They will keep for 2 or 3 days but they go stale VERY quickly so enjoy them soon.
Chef Lesego (@LesDaChef)