After almost 16 years of living in this country I have finally found it.
The light, sweet, intoxicating white stuff that makes me – and many a Russian – smile dreamily and make our eyes go all misty with memories of breakfasts as children with babuskhas at hand.
What Slavic new-comers to this land call Cottage Cheese (which is of course a very different, boring, fat free dairy beast). Curdcheese, or just curds, is a more correct term in my books, as it conveys quite literally the process of lifting the beautiful sweet curds out of ermmm curdled milk. No maturing process takes place, hence the Russian cheese-free term tvorog seems more apt to me.
Many of my compatriots would argue that, comon plenty of ‘our’ (Lithuanian, Polish, Russian) shops sell tvorog!
Quite decent stuff really they say, especially if you make syrniki, sweet breakfast dumplings. Imported from lands faraway, this tvorog however has many things added and taken out to make it last the journey to and in the shops for this long.
But the stuff of dreams are the lanquid pillows of proper fresh, slightly tangy, full-fat beauties that one could eat just as is, perhaps with a few crystals of white sugar and a blob of sourcream on top. Quality tvorog does not transport so well and so should be made with the best, organic I say, milk.
I found my British tvorog dream in Neal’s Yard Dairy in Maltby Street market – a cheesemonger that’s an institution in Britain, specialising in cheeses made on these foggy islands. I spotted a bowl of fresh curds as I walked in immediately. Made on premises they use organic milk from Commonwork Farm in Kent.
I dare any Russian to taste these curds and not be transported to a market somewhere back at home, at a stall run by a babushka who has her own little cow and not much else.
…When it comes to products that ‘Russians’* miss in London, the common answer often goes – ‘black’ (often rye) bread and sourcream, dairy fermented products more generally. The situation has improved significantly over the last few years: from quality bread from Karaway bakery in Barking to Bio-tiful organic kefir (read my interview with the owner here). Fresh tvorog has been elusive so far. Perhaps a business idea for a Russian-speaking entrepreneur?…
What to do with tvorog:
well, you can make your own curds quite easily, see my version.
my Cuddly Curdly syrniki recipe for breakfast.
savoury Zapekanka here made with root vegetables, but replace with a quarter or so quantity of tvorog instead.
* we use the team Russian loosely on these pages, meaning anyone originated in the ex-Soviet land who can speak Russian, be it their first language or not.