Despite dark childhood memories of earnestly healthy but tasteless sprout and cottage cheese sandwiches, I’m having a bit of a ‘born again’ appreciation of cottage cheese at the moment, and not just for its retro nostalgic ‘meaty’ qualities, such in these vegetarian sausage rolls. I was brought back into the cottage cheese fold by these quinoa and onion cakes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Plenty More.
The original recipe calls for wild garlic or ramps but, as these are classified as an invasive weed in Australia, I’ve gone with the more prosaic but much more accessible and less environmentally disastrous green spring onions. Even without the exotic ingredient of wild garlic, these quinoa cakes are very, very good. The cottage cheese and quinoa combination gives them a hearty meatiness but they are still very light. If you can stop yourself eating them all for dinner, they make the most excellent leftovers the next day too.
You can eat these cakes just with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon but I like them with a bit of sauce on the side. Yotam serves them with a salbitxada sauce, which is a hard-to-pronounce Catalan sauce similar to romesco. I’ve made it once with these cakes and it is delicious but a bit of a hassle. When I’m serving these quinoa cakes as a week night meal, I make a simple tomato sauce with some sauted garlic, chilli flakes and tomato passata, along with some fresh basil, if I have any around. The only other thing I’ve changed from the original recipe is I’ve made them cheesier and doubled the cottage cheese to 250 grams, which is a small tub of cheese. Despite my new-found appreciation for cottage cheese, half a tub of left over cottage cheese in my fridge is a recipe for waste.
Quinoa cakes with spring onions
- 250 grams quinoa
- 6 thinly sliced spring onions (or 40 grams wild garlic leaves)
- 1 small red onion finely diced (100 grams)
- 2 large eggs lightly whisked
- 2 green chillis, de-seeded and finely diced (or 2 teaspoons of chilli powder)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 250 grams of cottage cheese
- 60 grams of mature cheddar coarsely grated
- 60 grams of dried breadcrumbs (for a gluten-free option, you can use ground flaxseeds)
- 60 mls of oil for frying
- 1 large lemon cut into wedges for serving (optional).
- Rinse quinoa well in a fine sieve and place in a medium pot of boiling water, and simmer for nine minutes. The quinoa should be just tender but al dente. Drain in a fine sieve, rinse with cold water and leave to drain until completely dry.
- Mix together the rest of the ingredients (apart from oil and lemon) in a large bowl and season with a teaspoon of salt and black pepper. Add the quinoa, mix well and shape into small patties of 60 grams, or about 6 cm (2″) wide and 2 cm (⅔“) high.
- When you are ready to fry the patties, heat oven to 200°C (180°C fan forced).
- Heat half the oil in cast iron or non-stick pan and fry the patties in batches for about three minutes on each side, until golden brown. Place in oven on baking tray and finish off in oven for about eight minutes.
- Serve hot with lemon wedges or passata tomato sauce.