Said to have originated as far back as the 14th century in Central Europe, Quark is low in calories and fat, and makes a great healthy baking substitute if you're trying to keep on top of eating a little bit better.
This seemingly magical milk product can be added to all sorts of recipes and is said to be good for you too, so we couldn't resist - we just had to find out more about this ingredient that seems to be growing in popularity more and more each day in the UK.
What is Quark?
Quark is officially a cheese, thanks to its soft dairy nature. It looks a little bit like yogurt and can be swapped into all sorts of recipes to cut back on fat or calories when replacing things like yogurt or cream.
It's made from milk that has been altered by the addition of lactic acid. This 'acidification' as it's known, causes the whey in the milk to split from the curd, and then the solids can be gathered up and turned into Quark.
What does Quark taste like?
Quark is mild and creamy, and is often likened to products like yogurt and cottage cheese. We think it is a little bit like a mix of both. It is mild, and neither sweet nor sour, like cottage cheese, but with the texture of a thick, yogurt. The finished product depends on how well it has been strained, but when pushed through a fine mesh it can be made really smooth and result in a silky finished product.
Is Quark good for you?
Lots of people believe Quark is healthy thanks to its high ratios of protein. This means it is really filling without being as fattening as ingredients like cream. It's also high in calcium to help with keeping bones, hair and teeth healthy; packs a lot of Vitamin A, which can help eyesight; and contains plenty of B vitamins, which support our nervous systems.
Most Quark varieties contain no added salt or sugar (as they're not necessary in the actual forming process), and it's naturally lower in the stuff than most other dairy ingredients, meaning it's considered a healthier alternative to things like cottage cheese or yogurt.
Quark also contains no rennet, which some other cheeses do, which means it's vegetarian too.
How to use Quark
Quark can be used in plenty of sweet and savoury recipes that call for dairy staples like cream cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese. Quark can also be eaten as it comes with things like fruit and granola, for a high-protein low-fat breakfast option, or spread on toast for a creamy topper.
Because Quark is a fresh cheese it has a fairly short shelf life, so you're usually better buying small and often, rather than getting in a bulk load of it.
Quark recipes are great in that they encompass both sweet and savoury ideas. Whether you enjoy it by itself, stirred through savoury meals for a creamy addition, or use it to make healthier desserts; the options for using Quark in recipes really are endless.
Quark cheesecakes are a long-standing favourite from the Quark-loving-community. Used in the place of cream cheese it gives a similarly creamy flavour with the firm texture you need to be able to cut nice, clean slices. Our favourite is Slimming World's chocolate vanilla cheesecake. Made with a combination of vanilla yogurt, Quark and Bourbon biscuits it tastes rich and indulgent despite its healthy credentials!
If you fancy a cooling dip but don't want to rack up lots of extra calories you can substitute Quark for sour cream. Season it with salt, pepper and a handful of chopped chives for a cooling nacho-topper or mix through finely chopped cucumber and mint for a healthy twist on a tzatziki.
Quark can be used in place of fat in some cake recipes, helping to hold the ingredients together. The mild flavour lends itself to being the perfect base for other ingredients and its texture gives a light finish to baking. Use it combined with a little oil in the place of butter.
You can make Quark bread using just two ingredients – Quark and flour. Mix around 200g of strong bread flour with 250g Quark and knead together until you have a smooth dough. Roll out into discs and grill, bake or fry until golden and crisp. You can season this mixture any way you like or flavour it with herbs, spices or condiments. We love ours as wraps for homemade kebabs or to make a per-peri chicken sandwiches.
If you think achieving a light-as-air texture from Quark is impossible then think again. This simple dairy product can be whipped up, just like cream, until it becomes a fluffier version of itself. Stir through half the quantity of melted dark chocolate to your whipped Quark and leave to set for an almost fat-free chocolate mousse dessert.
If you love a korma or a butter chicken but want to cut down on calories then these could be the Quark recipes for you. Instead of using cream, yogurt or butter, stir through a couple of tablespoons of Quark towards the end of cooking for a creamy and smooth finish.
If there's one thing we miss when we're trying to be good it's rich, indulgent pasta dishes made with plenty of cream or cheese. Substituting Quark for these more commonly used dairy ingredients lowers the fat needed but still gives a really lovely finish. Slimming World's mac 'n' cheese, for instance, uses Quark for the bulk of its sauce and it tastes fantastic. We also love using it instead of a white sauce in lasagne, simply season well and spread over pasta sheets, between layers of Bolognese sauce, and bake in the oven for a gorgeous rich finish.
Where can I buy Quark?
Quark is now available in all the big supermarkets and online grocery shops. You'll find it with the yogurt or cheese in most cases. For around 500g of Quark we think the prices are fairly similar to yogurt, with the average pot typically costing between £1.50 and £2.00.