It was only about 3 hours into the drive along Route 62 when I realised what I was actually doing; I was travelling 400km into the middle of the Klein Karoo (aka nowhere) in search of ‘The Perfect Koeksister Recipe’. Those that know me, expect nothing less, but still, it was quite crazy. Even for me.
To catch you up to speed, a koeksister is a plaited, deep-fried doughnut drenched in a seriously sticky syrup. It’s a treat as South African as milk tart, biltong and beer. Like American’s and their doughnuts? Koeksisters are a big deal here – we take them as seriously as our rugby! We even have a monument dedicated to the treat! My search for sweetness led me all the way to the little town of Ladismith where rumour has it, I’d find the best. Although tuisnywerheid’s (little shops selling home-baked treats) have all but died out in the big cities, in a small town like Ladismith it is still the place to go for the best cakes, rusks and jams (and also the latest skinner/gossip!)
Only the finest bakers get their goodies displayed on the shelves here. It was while scanning the fully-laden racks that I met Lallie Botha who tells me she was Ladismith’s first koeksister queen back in 1972 when she founded the tuisnywerheid. Back then, she would go through an 85L drum of oil each month! I was convinced I was in the right place – the people of Ladismith definitely love their koeksisters! After giving me some tips on what to look out for in the perfect koeksister, Lallie dished the dirt on who makes the best and sent me on my way (with 5 bottles of homemade jam). While walking through the town of Ladismith, I couldn’t resist stopping a few locals to ask about their favourite koeksisters. But it seemed the town was completely divided on who makes the best and I sensed a little competition between two particular bakers. It was definitely time for me to meet the koeksister contenders!