My perfect syrnik September 24, 2008Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Darlings, whom would you least like to be invited to dinner by? Though I like Closer to Fine well enough, I’d still have to say I’d least like to go for dinner at the Indigo Girls’ house, assuming they live together, because, let’s face it, you’d only choke to death on quiche and some bone-dry salad within minutes.
A squillion years ago, part of a job I had was translating the restaurant reviews for a St. Petersburg magazine. It was an OK way to (part-)earn a living, though not as much fun as translating the excoriating film reviews by the same person. He saved his sharpest vitriol for anything that came from Hollywood, or perhaps even America in general – he was a product of his times and environment, after all – and I then found that a bit of hoot. I was young. But he was more obsequious when it came to food, or perhaps the food in St. Petersburg restaurants was just unfailingly excellent. (I often did eat rather well there, but was too skint for it to be frequent.) And I remember him saying that the pudding was always the most important part of the meal as that’s what you leave the restaurant with the memory still fresh of.
I thought that was probably bollocks as even now, with my brain almost completely erased by badness, I am still capable of thinking, “Hmm, that spotted dick wasn’t so good but their toad-in-the-hole was magnificent.”
So I am heroically resisting an urge to let my pudding-memory, as it were, of England disflavour my whole meal. Yet am I allowed just a minor gripe about transport back on the island? I was even impressed to find a website to help you plan journeys when I’d always previously relied on ze Tschermans, even for journeys within the UK. Faithfully, trustingly tapped in Metroland to Luton Airport. Quickest option was by two buses with a 15-or-so-minute wait between the two at the romantically named Bricket Wood. “Wonderful,” I thought. “I’ll get fifteen minutes of greenery. There’ll probably be a cricket match happening within view, the players making the most of the last days of sun before it disappears again for 8 months. A thatched cottage or two.”
I was dropped off on a dual carriageway at a ramshackle bus-stop which had last seen human company in the 1970s. Lorries whizzed by at what, so close up, seemed terrifying speed. The odd motorist dashed a sympathetic and unbelieving glance at the nutter waiting by the side of the motorway. And then my bus appeared. In the outside lane. Travelling at about 100mph. I stuck my hand out feebly, remembering my country’s mores – a French friend once refused to believe that pulling the string on a bus would make it stop – but it sped past. “Just as well I’ve left myself oodles of time,” I muttered to myself, picking the bits of gravel thrown up by passing vehicles out of my face. And then another 757 to Luton Airport. Going at 100mph and in the outside lane. I stuck out my hand, then pretended it was the opening move in a head-scratch as he whizzed past. “Just as well I’ve left myself oodles of time,” I remuttered to myself with less confidence. A man in a rich person’s car pulled into the bus-stop’s microscopic lay-by, I thought to rescue a gentleman in distress. But he looked at a map and sped back off. Eventually a 321, servicing the world’s slowest and most circuitous bus-route, stopping at every bird’s nest in the south east of England, trundled up in the right lane and ground to a stunned halt. The Polish driver – I thought of befriending him it all took so long – got us to Luton Airport in record non-speed, where it was a mad dash through security – fuck, haven’t got a pound coin for the liquids plastic bags and it takes no other coins. Excellent. Fuck. Will risk it – planewards. I wrote indignant SMSes to the Russian throughout keeping him up-to-date. “You write complyaint lyettyer ven you get khome.”
I arrived in Berlin some hours later, still breathless from my English goodbye, wondering if the Russian might have decided to truncate his trip by a few months and surprise me by being here. Not a bit of it. So I’m fending for myself. Threats in the post. Mostly placated. And a fridge with some milk that had turned into yoghurt and a packet of Quark. (Is that really curd cheese in English?)
Nothing for it. It was going to have to be a syrnik (cream cheese fritter or cottage cheese pancake, says the online dic), which Russians eat for breakfast, for dinner.
Cook with BiB. Take a bowl. Splat packet of curd cheese – I don’t know how many effing grams. Probably 250 – into bowl. Add some white sugar. Add one egg. Add some flour. Mix it up until it’s a fairly sturdy gloop. Then dollop some gloop into a frying-pan sizzling with butter or olive oil. If you don’t burn them to a cinder, as I do, you should end up with a fairly satisfactorily thick, rubbery pancake. Nice with jam or nutella for breakfast.