While this may sound like an alien planet or the name of a computer system, quark is, in fact, a type of dairy product. It is also the name for subatomic particles that carry a fractional electric charge, thus the association with technology, but this unique cross between cheese and yoghurt is set to be one of the next big things in the world of health eating and nutrition. More commonly found in Slavic, and Northern European and Germanic countries, quark shares a similar texture with cottage cheese or curd, although it doesn’t contain rennet or added salt. It is made by curdling soured milk, whereupon lactic acid bacteria is added; the quark is then strained in a cheesecloth after its casein has dripped out, and the final product is one that’s bursting with health benefits. It’s so high in protein that it gives Greek yoghurt a run for its money, with more than 14g of protein per 100g of quark. It’s also relatively low in sugar, although varieties that contain added cream will be higher in fat. Quark is also a great source of calcium, as well as vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B, while being low in lactose.
How do you use it?
Quark has become a hidden gem in baking lately, from sweet treats such as lemon cakes and cheesecakes to savoury items such as quiches (this is delicious when combined with crisp phyllo pastry laden with comforting vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, and butternut squash), in coleslaw or potato salad, or in dips and sauces (including creamy mushroom and pepper sauces, for instance). It also makes a great ingredient for baking non-traditional non-wheat-based breads or pancakes, and can also be used as a substitute for cottage cheese in almost any recipe. If you want to get creative, you can even use it as a base for creamy sauces to accompany pasta or in pies. Prefer to keep it simple? Top it with berries, honey, and nuts just as you would with yoghurt, for a simple breakfast.
If you’re a fan of paneer, fromage frais, or queso blanco, you’ll probably like quark since these are dairy options that are similar in taste and texture from other parts of the world. Quark is also often called curd cheese, and if you’re feeling daring, you could even try making your own at home using ingredients found at Spinneys (like milk and buttermilk) since the process is fairly straightforward.