I grew up with a mum who worked full-time, so my brother and I had pretty simple breakfasts before heading to school. But she loved to spoil us on the weekends by making something special for breakfast. Syrniki (seer-nee-kee) were one of these treats and I missed them terribly when I moved away from Russia. Syrniki are fritters made from a farmer’s cheese called tvorog and I couldn’t find a good substitute in the US or Canada for the longest time. It’s very similar to cottage cheese and ricotta, but is drier and has a tangy taste. I have used well-drained cottage cheese in the past, but you can find tvorog in any Russian or Eastern European store. If you have ever attempted to make pancakes, you will manage this recipe with ease.
- 450 g tvorog or drained cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil
- 50 g caster sugar
- 100 g (⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra flour for dusting and rolling
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- icing sugar, to dust
- blackcurrant or other fruit jam and crème fraîche (optional), to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place the cheese, eggs, 1½ tbsp oil, sugar, flour, baking powder and vanilla in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined (no longer than 2-3 minutes). The mixture will be very sticky, but don’t panic; that’s what it’s supposed to be!
Heat 2½ tbsp oil in a nonstick or cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, dust a clean work surface with the extra flour. Using a soup spoon, scoop batter directly onto the floured surface, then roll to coat and flatten with your palm to form a patty. Repeat process with the remaining batter to make about 14 patties.
Before frying, make sure the oil is very hot by sprinkling a bit of flour into it; if it sizzles, it’s hot enough. Cook the fritters in batches, for 1–2 minutes or until golden, then turn over and cook for a further 1–2 minutes or until golden and slightly puffed. The flour coating will make the outside slightly crispy while the mostly cheese filling will taste light and delicious.
Dust the fritters with icing sugar and serve with your favourite jam. For a truly Russian experience, enjoy with a bit of smetana (crème fraîche).
Recipe from Vikalinka by Julia Frey, with photography by Julia Frey.
Read our interview with Julia and find more recipes from her blog here.