Koeksisters Are Doing It For Themselves
While these sweet ‘sisters may seem different: the one is curvy, the other round, one is Afrikaans in origin, the other is Cape Malay, one is pronounced koeksister, the other loses the second ‘k’, they have a lot in common. They’re both South African, they’re both enjoyed with tea or coffee, they’re both lovingly made most often by the women of the family, and it’s impossible to limit yourself to eating just one. Like with any sibling rivalry, they’re pitted against one other, but we find there’s room at the table for both. We chatted to two experts of the koeksisterhood.
Gerda Swanepoel – Koeksister expert
On the differences between koesisters and koeksisters:
Koeksisters have no spices in the batter and you have to put them straight from the fryer into the syrup.
Yeast or baking powder?
We use baking powder and let the mix rest for half an hour but I have seen some recipes that use yeast.
What’s the secret to your koeksisters:
I learnt my recipe from my mum who was called Ouma Rooi. She taught it to me in 1985. It has been in our family for 73 years and has never changed. There is no secret ingredient it’s just in how we make it. Some people flavour the syrup. We don’t do that, we keep it traditional. We hand make every one. You need to make sure to pinch the ends properly when shaping them otherwise when you fry them you will get the bad kind of sister…a sletsister (a koeksister with open legs).
Do you remember your first koeksister?
I don’t remember my first koeksister but I remember the first time I tried to make them. It was a disaster. When I tried to roll out the dough it was too elastic and so it kept bouncing back. Eventually I had to get my son and niece to hold either side so I could cut it.
What did you do before getting into the koeksister business?
I was a teacher and only used to make them for home industries. After my mother passed in 2006 I started the business to honour her memory. When I won the Huletts koeksister competition in 2014 the business really took off.
Wardia Cornelius from Eazy Foods – Koesister expert (Find her on the corner of Wale and Rose streets in Cape Town).
What’s the difference between a koeksister and a koesister:
The Afrikaans one is just plain, and hard and has the syrup inside as well because they dip it in syrup straight from the fryer. Ours have spice in the batter and are soft.
What kind of spices do you use?
Ginger, cinnamon, clementine peel, aniseed, cardamon
Yeast or baking powder:
Never baking powder only yeast.
What makes your koesisters the best in town?
The potato. I put potatoes in the batter. Not all koesister recipes use potato. I got my recipes from my mother and mother-in-law. I combined them to get my recipe.
Whose recipe is best?
My mother’s. It takes a very long time to prove so is not practical for everyday use but yoh…
What did you do before getting into the koesister business?
I was in corporate for many years and then 7 years ago I got diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t work and get treatment. Thankfully it is in remission now. I went for a check up yesterday. But I started Eazy Foods so I could get treatment and work.
Would you ever go back to corporate?
Never, I love this.
Interviews by Emily Robertson