I have several Polish cookbooks on my kitchen shelf, including the great classic Kuchnia Polska which is splattered with food on my favourite recipes and is an encyclopedia in itself, but all of them assume a level of knowledge of Polish methods of cooking. Ren Behan’s “Wild Honey and Rye” changes all of that.
Ren introduces us to current Polish cooking as it is eaten in farmer’s markets, food festivals and family picnics. It’s great warmth is in the family stories that link the recipes together. You feel like you’re in Ren’s kitchen yourself as part of her family as she introduces them through these recipes with descriptions of modern Poland amongst stories of growing up in a Polish home where memories are always based around food.
Starting from deliciously simple breakfast recipes, it takes you to creating different pierogi fillings right through to making your own fruit liqueurs (yes, alcohol recipes!), pitching the level perfectly for beginners and also those more experienced.
To me, a Babcia’s (Granny’s) cooking is always the thing we remember. One of mine would scour all the shops to buy the best tomato in one, lettuce and cucumber in another and make the freshest, most mouthwatering open ham sandwiches on soft bread with a cornucopia of salad on top with a sprinkle of salt to bring out the flavour. A little like Ren’s Polish salad below:
Here are a few of the things that most appeals to me about Ren’s book:
There’s a section on how to stock up your Polish Pantry with the right spices, flours and oils.
It’s full of new twists, with lighter dishes including grains and salads and new ways of presenting food.
Staple recipes are included such as jajecznica z kiełbasą (scrambled egg with polish sausage) or
mizeria (cucumber salad), regulars in our house and mizeria goes particularly well with curries!
Some truly scrumptious ideas for breakfast that are hearty yet healthy.
Preserving food – there’s even a guide to pickling cucumbers.
There’s a rhythm that runs through most families for generations with the routine of autumn pickling,
but if we don’t learn these methods, we’ll break this familiar beat. Here’s your chance to keep it going.
It’s a real work of love, the book is beautifully presented,
the photography is stunning, particularly of various markets and restaurants in Poland
and it gives you enough variations of dishes to take you from breakfast through to a warming vodka drink in the evening.
I have known Ren since she was a child through harcerstwo (Polish scouting) and the many obozy (camps) which I either led or then supported Ren when she ran them for younger girls. So although I am biased in my views, I wouldn’t praise it so much if I genuinely didn’t feel this book is a winner.
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Good luck and Smacznego!