Since the EU Enlargement in May 2004 the availability of various food products from my part of the world (i.e. Northern and Eastern Europe) has increased considerably here in Scotland. My local deli, Victor Hugo on Melville Drive, has now a special shelf dedicated to various Polish relishes, jams and salads. And as of early January, there's a Polish shop, Bona Deli, within a 5-minute walk from my house. This is good news. Although Polish cuisine is not very familiar to me, quite a few of the raw ingredients we use are the same.
When checking out the new Polish deli*, I was delighted to find that they stock curd cheese. Milk curd cheese (kohupiim) is very popular in Estonia in various forms.You can buy it plain, or seasoned with vanilla or studded with raisins. Children adore chocolate covered curd cheese bars - a good source of milk proteins. When I was a kid, there was just one variety of these - nowadays you can get these filled with cranberry or blueberry jam, for instance. Milk curd creams with various delicious flavours were our typical milky snack before yogurts took over the dairy sections in the supermarkets. Cakes using milk curd are delicious alternatives to more familiar cheesecakes. Texture-wise, it's very similar to ricotta, although the production process differs (ricotta is used from milk whey).
But milk curd can also be used in savoury dishes, and one popular dish is called 'sõrnikud'. Basically these are curd cheese patties that have been dipped into flour or breadcrumbs and fried gently in butter and oil. The dish is also known in Russia, the Ukraine etc, so it's not 'native' to the Estonian kitchen. But I've seen similar recipes in older Estonian cookbooks.
I made two different versions last week - plain ones and carrot ones.
Plain curd cheese patties
(Kohupiimakotletid ehk sõrnikud)
250 grams dry curd cheese
100 ml plain flour
1 medium or large egg
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 Tbsp sour cream
a pinch of salt
Mix all the ingredients and let stand for 15 minutes. Moisten your hands and form the curd cheese mixture into small patties. Dip into semolina or fine breadcrumbs.
Fry in oil and/or butter until slightly golden. You're aiming for a soft and not crispy crust here.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped herbs as a light meal.
Curd cheese patties with carrot
The carrot version is very similar, but due to the use of some sugar and the inherent sweetness of carrots, this can be served as a dessert. Well, it is served as a dessert back in Estonia (as the plain ones can, once you omit caraway seeds and add a spoonful of sugar). If you're a bit sceptical about it, you can always drizzle some honey or serve with some jam - in addition to the sour cream, that is:)
250 grams plain milk curd cheese
2 large grated carrots
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp semolina
1 little to medium egg
1 Tbsp sugar
100 ml plain flour
a pinch of salt
Fry the grated carrot gently in butter to soften a little. Add semolina, fry for a minute or two. Cool a little.
Mix all ingredients and let rest for 15 minutes.
With moist hands again, form into small patties and dip into semolina or fine breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown.
NB! If you cannot find curd cheese (try Polish/Russian shops), then ricotta is a perfectly acceptable substitute. The taste will be a wee bit milder though.
*Bona Deli, 86 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh