A Little Taste of South African Jewish Life


"In South Africa, Jewish women made everything from scratch," says Lynne Jacobson, who emigrated from Johannesburg to Toronto, Canada, in 2000. Like her family, many South African Jews have left their homeland, cherishing their mem­ories and recipes.

"Teiglach were served at every holiday, except Passover," says Jacobson. "My granny used to make it." A Rosh Hashanah delicacy, teiglach were common at baby namings too.

Jacobson recalls eating teiglach at her great aunt's house on Jewish holidays. A Russian Jewish woman, she employed a chef named Jerry, a talented cook proficient in Jewish cuisine.

On holidays, her great aunt entertained 40 to 50 people. Extended families often gathered at one home at holidays. An affluent society, most South African Jews lived in large homes and retained servants.

Many of them hailed from Lithuania, Latvia and Russia, something evident in The International Goodwill Recipe Book, published by the Johannesburg Women's Zionist League.

"This cookbook was a must for South African Jewish brides," says Jacobson who still relies on it. However, many of her family recipes evolved over time and are blended from many different sources.

"My granny used to bake biscuit kichel," says Jacobson. "She mixed a little of this and a little of that, so it was hard to pinpoint her exact recipe."

Jacobson often misses the foods and flavors of the past. On Thursday afternoons, she serves her twin granddaughters a typical English high tea using her mother's best Royal Albert tea­cups, bringing some of South African life into the present.

The recipes that follow were provided by Lynne Jacobson.

Quick Biscuit Kichel


1 piece of parchment paper
12 won ton wraps (Nasoya brand is kosher and pareve)
1/2 tsp. sugar
Accompaniment: chopped herring

Preheat oven to 450°. Place a piece of parchment over the slotted top of a broiler pan.

Arrange won ton wraps on the parchment paper. Sprinkle a small amount of sugar over each wrap.

Place in the oven and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until wraps brown a bit, particularly at the edges. Wraps should feel firm, not flimsy.

Move to a plate and cool to room temperature. Serve as a cracker with chopped herring. Biscuit Kichel can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes 12 pieces.



Dough Ingredients:

6 large eggs, minus 1 white 
1 Tbsp. corn oil 
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/8 tsp. vanilla 
1/8 tsp. ground ginger 
pinch of salt 
3 cups all-purpose flour

Syrup Ingredients:

2 cups water 
3 cups Lyle's Golden Syrup, a South African sweetener that can be ordered on Amazon.com, or substitute with honey 
2 cups granulated sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add the remaining dough ingredients. Beat until a soft dough forms.

Take a small amount of dough and roll it in your palms, forming a ball 1/4-inch in diameter. Continue until no dough remains. (If the dough is sticky, moisten hands with water.) Place teiglach balls on a platter and reserve.

To Prepare Syrup: Place all syrup preparation ingredients into a large, deep pot. Stir to blend. Cover the pot; bring it a low boil. Remove the pot from the flame. One by one, carefully slide each teiglach ball into the syrup. Give the pot a quick stir and then cover it. Return to the flame and bring to low boil. Do not uncover the pot for 20 minutes. Watch the pot almost continuously to avoid a spillover. Should the syrup rise more than halfway up the pot, lower the flame immediately.

Open pot and stir the contents. Teiglach should be brown. If not, simmer a few minutes more. Remove from flame; cool to room temperature. Serve immediately or place in an airtight container.

Makes about 100 teiglach.

(Dairy or Pareve)

Dough Ingredients:

1 egg 
1 cup water 
2 tsps. butter or margarine, melted 
3 and 1/2 cups self rising flour 
pinch of salt

Syrup Ingredients:

3 and 1/2 cups sugar 
2 and 1/3 cups water 
3 tsps. Lyle's Golden Syrup, a South African sweetener that can be ordered on Amazon.com, or substitute with honey 
2 and 1/2 tsps. glycerine 
pinch of salt 
1 tsp. cream of tartar 
2 cinnamon sticks 
2 whole cloves

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the egg and water until foamy. Add the butter and beat again.

Sift together the flour and salt. Add to the egg mixture in three batches. Using a dough hook, beat ingredients after each addition. Once they are incorporated, keep beating for another minute on medium speed. Cover bowl with a damp linen towel and place in a warm spot. Let rise for at least 20 minutes, while preparing the syrup.

To Prepare Syrup: Place all the syrup ingredients in a large pot and stir to combine. Cover the pot and bring to a low boil for 10 minutes. Then uncover and bring to room temperature.

To Assemble you will need:

4 cups corn oil 
paper towels 
parchment paper 
flour for sprinkling

Pour the oil into a large, deep pot. Heat on a medium high flame. Lay out paper towels on a counter.

Divide the dough in half, leaving one half in the bowl covered with the towel.

Sprinkle some flour on the parchment paper and on the rolling pin. Roll out the dough to a square about 9 x 9-inches. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into thin strips. Taking three strips at a time, braid the dough strips. Cut each braid into thirds. Pinch the ends of each koeksister piece.

Carefully submerge the koeksisters into the oil about six at a time. Fry until the koeksisters brown. With a long handled slotted spoon, turn each braid over so it will brown on the other side.

Using the slotted spoon, remove each koeksister from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Submerge each one into the cooled syrup. Move to a wire rack until syrup stops dripping. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 dozen.

Linda Morel is a writer based ­in New York City. Email her at: ­[email protected]


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