Anthony Horowitz’s third and final James Bond novel, With a Mind to Kill, takes our hero to Russia. Having been smuggled out of England by a team sent by former Smersh agents following his apparent assassination of M, James Bond is reunited with Colonel Boris, the man responsible for his brainwashing during the period between the events of You Only Live Twice and The Man with the Golden Gun. Colonel Boris has an important task for Bond, but is Bond’s mind strong enough to resist?
This exciting, page-turner of a novel, with its grey, miserable streets, joyless Soviet architecture, and a desperate and fearful population, strips away much of the glamour we normally associate with Bond. This includes the food, which, caviar apart (itself is so abundant that even this loses its allure) is the simple food of the people, with Bond practically living off black bread, fried eggs, sausages and cheese. Bond doesn’t even get a sight of scrambled eggs, and instead breakfast consists of Russian, cheese-filled pancakes called syrniki, served with jam.
Syrniki, as one might expect, are simple to prepare and cook. The key ingredient is tvorog or quark, a type of curd cheese. I confess I had never heard of quark until preparing the recipe below and found to my surprise that it’s obtainable from most supermarkets (at least in the UK). In the US, farmer’s cheese is a reasonable substitute. The pancakes have the look of small, American-style pancakes, but are still soft in the centre, giving them a creamy texture. However, like American-style pancakes, syrniki can be served with maple syrup, blueberries or other such ingredients.
- 1 egg
- 50g caster sugar
- 130g quark
- 120g plain flour
- Pinch salt
- Oil for frying
Break the egg into a bowl and add the sugar. Whisk until the ingredients are thoroughly combined, then add the cheese, flour and salt and mix well.
Pour enough oil into a frying pan to cover the base, place the pan over a high heat and, once the oil is hot, carefully put a tablespoon of batter into the pan. (To make a neater, rounder pancake, place a heat-proof chef’s ring into the pan, spoon the batter into that, then remove the ring.) Repeat until the batter is used up or the pan is full (if necessary, cooking the pancakes in batches). Fry the pancakes for about 2-2½ minutes on each side until their surfaces are golden brown. Remove from the pan to a serving plate, ideally covered with some absorbent paper to take the excess oil.
Serve Bond-style with black tea, rye bread and jam, although I couldn’t resist shaking some icing sugar over the top of mine.