In the Western Cape, it’s a tradition among Cape Malay families to serve these pillowy, spice syrup–infused, coconut-dusted doughnuts on Sundays, accompanied by milky tea and chatter.
This recipe uses mashed potato, which many believe is the secret to a soft, bouncy koesister. You can use dried orange peel instead of mandarin and adjust the spices to your liking. Why not add ground allspice and a little nutmeg too? These koesisters freeze well for up to three months—defrost and bring to room temperature before dunking in the hot syrup.
Boil potatoes until soft. Drain and pass through a ricer. Heat milk until it boils and add the potatoes, along with the butter and egg. Mash well and whisk the mixture with a wooden spoon. You want a very smooth mixture.
Add sugar, yeast, flour, salt and ground spices to a large mixing bowl. Add potato mixture. Dip your hands in flour and dust off. Mix well to form a smooth dough. (The dough may be sticky but does become more manageable. Ensure you keep your hands dusted with flour.) Cover dough with saran wrap and leave in a warm place to rise. It should double in about an hour.
Press the dough with your knuckles to deflate a few times and turn out onto a well-floured surface. Form into rectangles with rounded edges or short, fat cigars with tapered ends, around 2.5 x 1.8 inches. Allow it to rise for 15 minutes.
Deep fry in moderately hot oil until golden brown. You’ll know the oil is ready if you add a little of the dough in and it sizzles immediately. If it’s too hot, the koesister will burn. Turn and allow to color on both sides. You want a dark brown doughnut but do be careful, as the line between deeply-colored and burnt is fine. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Keep a plate of dessicated coconut ready. Prepare the syrup just before or while the oil is heating. To make syrup, place all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir over low heat until the syrup forms a film on the spoon. Dip koesisters in hot syrup for a second and roll in the plate desiccated coconut, covering all sides.
Ishay is a former lawyer, now a freelance food and travel photojournalist, delving into all aspects of culture. Author of Curry: Stories & Recipes across South Africa. She's fascinated by what makes us human.