Thursday, 7 November 2013

Syrniki, Russian scones with cottage cheese

For many generations of the Russians syrniki (also known as tvorozhniki) are associated with the busy mornings and Mums or Grannies serving hot cottage cheese scones for breakfast. This is a comforting easy dish, which could be either sweet or savoury. The name syrniki comes from the word syroi (raw) as in the old Russia all the curd cheese products were called syr (i.e. soft cheese, cottage cheese, cheese etc). It is only later than the distinction between the cheese (syr) and cottage cheese (tvorog) appeared.

200g cottage (soft) cheese
2 eggs
2tbps sugar
2tbsp dry polenta or semolina
2tbsp soured cream or plain Greek style yogurt
6 heaped tbsp self-raising flour (+ more)
1/2tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
lemon zest (1/2 lemon), optional
30g raisins, optional
butter or oil for frying

In a mixing bowl beat the eggs with sugar, add the polenta and soured cream, and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt, lemon zest and raisins, and mix well again. If the mix is too sticky when you handle it, add more flour (just enough for you to be able to handle the mix without it sticking to your hands).
Divide into 12 or more pieces and roll them in your hands. Flatten them slightly to resemble scones and put in batches in a frying pan with the melted butter or oil. Fry for 3 minutes on each side. Take them out and put on a tray, lined with the foil or oiled parchment paper. Put the tray in the oven preheated to 180C for 10 minutes.

They  are best served hot and dusted with the icing sugar.
Russian grannies would also often serve it with a sweet berry sauce, or a dish of soured cream.
You can also just bake them without frying. Some cooks use only semolina instead of the flour. Some add the vanilla essence or orange zest, grated carrot or apple.

I discovered that Lowicki twarog from Tesco is the best equivalent of the Russian cottage cheese, which you need in this recipe. It is a dry cottage cheese, as opposed to the very moist British varieties which are almost floating in liquid. If you cannot find it, you can use a British brand, but you'll need to drain the cottage cheese in a colander to get rid of all the liquid. This cottage/soft cheese is also available in fat free and full fat varieties.

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