I firmly believe that there exists a secret babushka guidebook which states that ‘thou shalt over-feed thy grandchildren with syrniki’. It seems that Russian grannies have an endless supply of those cottage cheese fritters and an understanding that their grandchild has a bottomless stomach which enables them to consume all of the syrniki on offer. Traditionally syrniki are fried on a pan in a shape similar to crumpets, however, at some point back in the early 1990s when our family acquired a deep-frier, a new type of syrniki was born – a deep fried doughnut, dusted with sugar. Yes please! The recipe below belongs to my babushka Tamara but I’ve added some dried fruit to the mix to amplify the texture and flavour.
Makes: 10-12 doughnuts
Time: 30 minutes
Photography: Lizzie Mayson, Food Styling: Tamara Vos, Prop Styling: Louie Waller
Season: Year Round
200g of tvorog (make sure to get the right stuff from an Eastern European shop)
1 tbsp of sugar
1/2 tsp of baking powder
a pinch of salt
4 tbsp of white flour
2 tbsp of raisins (pre-soaked in rum or whisky to add that extra je ne sais quoi)
Zest of 1 lemon
Extra flour for shaping
Neutral oil for deep-frying
Extra sugar for dusting
Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until well-incorporated and fluffy. The dough will be very runny so use a well dusted surface and two tablespoons to roll it into medium doughnuts. Scoop out a full tablespoon of the mix and roll around in the flour until it stops sticking to the spoons and the surface.
In a large pot heat up the oil for deep-frying keeping the fire on medium heat. Make sure the oil does not start to smoke. Test the temperature by dropping a little of the dough into the pot, it should star to sizzle but not go dark brown immediately.
Once you are happy with the temperature of the oil, drop the dough balls in one at a time making sure they don’t stick together. Swirl them around occasionally and take out with a slotted spoon after 1-2 minutes. They should be golden brown and crisp. Lay them out on a kitchen towel and sprinkle with extra sugar.
Serve on a sharing plate with an array of condiments for a real feast of a breakfast or plate them up individually with your condiment of choice for a moreish dessert. See tips below for ideas.
Alissa’s first cookbook Salt & Time tells stories of the food of her native Russia and her childhood. It brings her modern interpretation of the rich and wonderful cuisine of Siberia into the Western kitchen, interwoven with intimate discussions on identity, people, place and history.
— cook’s notes
When it comes to condiments that accompany these doughnuts – the world is your oyster. Choose anything from plain yoghurt with fruit, to berry jams and compotes or dulce de leche; you got yourself a good deal!