My Zulu Nanny, France and The Koeksister

In a telephone conversation with a good friend recently, I was told that French Cooking was not as highly regarded as it was a few years ago, which led me to a little deep thought.
Alison and I came to France, not for the French Cookery, but rather for their devotion to the respect and knowledge of good ingredients, which leads to good wholesome dishes.
Also their total respect of seasonal produce which is both admirable and supports local farmers and producers.
These days it is so easy for one to become distracted from what is important when it comes to the preparation of good honest dishes, with the media hype in different parts of the world,
especially TV, and the rubbish we have to endure on our screens.
Yes, without any doubt cuisine levels have risen throughout the world, when it comes to the restaurant industry. However!!!! When it comes to cooking at home, my memories are deeply rooted back in South Africa and to a woman who showed me love as a child that no other did, my Zulu nanny, Edith, I prefer to think of her as my mother I never had, and I loved her as a mother.
Here in France I have come to experience eating some of the best food I have ever enjoyed in my life, No not in a Restaurant! but in the homes of our French friends, prepared from recipes handed down to them from their parents and Grandparents. It is the saying of one of the finest Chefs I know, Raymond Blanc, who openly admits that it is his Grandmother and Mother that inspired and taught him the basics of good, honest cooking, and that is what we love about France and always try to share with our guests.
A koeksister (or koe’sister) derives from the Dutch word koekje, which translates to “cookie”. It is a South African syrup-coated doughnut in a twisted or braided shape. It is prepared by deep-frying plaited dough rolls in oil, then dipping the fried dough into cold sugar syrup. Koeksisters are very sticky and sweet and taste like honey. Koeksisters are of Cape Malay origin, among whom they were known as koe’sisters, apparently suggesting polite gossiping among spinsters.
The Afrikaner version is much more syrupy and crisp, while the Cape Malay version is a round, fried dumpling with a texture more akin to a cake. It is spicier, being rolled in cinnamon sugar, and is usually covered in dried coconut. Here I share with you a recipe my Zulu mother prepared for me so often and is a classic South African Dish.
Koeksisters My Zulu nanny, Edith was an expert at making these, which, when she did, vanished within minutes of being taken out of the syrup.

I can only compare them to India’s Gulab Jamun or a soaked doughnut.
Ingredients Syrup
• 500g caster sugar
• 250ml water
• pinch of cream of tartar
• 1 cinnamon stick
• zest and juice from ½ a lemon
• 175g self-raising flour
• pinch of salt
• 1 tsp mixed spice
• 50g butter
• 1 tbsp caster sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 4 tbsp milk
• sunflower oil for frying
1. Make the syrup the day before, so as to give it time to chill. Place sugar, water and cream of tartar in a sauce pan. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil slowly. Boil for 4 minute and remove from heat. Add cinnamon and lemon juice and zest. Place in refrigerator overnight.
2. For dough, sift flour, salt and spice into a mixing bowl.
3. Rub in butter and sugar.
4. Mix in milk and egg to obtain fairly stiff dough.
5. Draw mixture together and on a floured surface, knead until smooth.
6. Dived into 18 equal portions and roll into balls, then into oblongs about 10cm long.
7. Deep fry 4/6 at a time in oil at 185°C till golden brown, turning them over a few times after they float to the top.
8. Drop into ice cold syrup and leave for 20 seconds and lift out.

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