While Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday herald the coming of Easter Sunday for much of the Christian world on March 27th, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of the same event will be quite late this year, May 1st to be exact. What separates the two Easters? In simple terms – an out-of-date church calendar.
It would be a miracle, if the meeting of the two Christian heads of state, Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba this week resulted in the melding of these two calendars of the Christian faith. The last meeting of the faiths was about 1,000 years ago. How’s that for “staying in touch?!” Wouldn’t it be cool to finally follow the same calendar, and spare Russian, Greek and other Slavic kids the pain of celebrating Christmas two weeks late and Easter, well…that varies and rarely coincides, adding the the difficulty of explaining to one’s friends the how and why of it all.
However, both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Easter are preceded by lent, fasting for the soul and a benefiting to the body. This is the time to get out your vegetarian and vegan recipes. Fit for the challenge, is my mother’s recipe for Sirniki. These cheese cakes can be breakfast delights or luncheon or dinner entrees when paired with a light, greens salad.
Mama would often alternate between Sirniki and Lazy Vareniki during the Great Lent when farmers’ or pot cheese was one of her favored meat replacements during those seven long weeks. Here’s her recipe from The Lobanovsky Family Table:
1 lb. pot cheese (or farmer’s cheese), 1 egg, beaten, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup (approximately) breadcrumbs –preferably not Panko, butter or ghee for frying. Garnishes: Sour cream or crème fraiche, melted butter, honey or jam
Beat the egg. Add to a medium bowl with the cheese in it. Then mix in the egg, sugar and flour until smooth. (If the cheese is particularly dry add another yolk or a whole egg, as long as the cheese is not so soft that you cannot handle it easily). Scoop about a cup of the mixture into a shallow dish filled with the breadcrumbs (or more flour if you wish). With floured hands, make balls the size of a large golf ball and roll them in breadcrumbs.
Flatten the balls into patties and place on a wax paper lined and floured baking sheet. Fry them in butter or ghee until golden, about 5 minutes per side on a medium flame. Turn over and fry on the second side until browned. Serve with sour cream or crème fraiche, melted butter and honey or jam.
In some regions Sirniki are known as Tvorozhniki, same dish, same recipe! Any leftover patties may be frozen, packed away into zip lock bags and finished later. In that case, heat your ghee in the pan, place the sirniki right into it, and cover with a lid while frying on the first side. This will auto-defrost your patties. Then flip them onto side two, cover agin but leaving a small gap between the lid and pan to allow any excess moisture to escape. After 5 more minutes, check for if done. The patty should be soft, heated through and brown on both sides. You’re there. Enjoy!