Recently I shared a new cookbook from one of my blogger friends.
Today I’m really happy to be able to share another, this time it’s all about Polish home cooking, written by my friend Ren Behan, a very successful blogger who has also been a professional recipe developer, writer, stylist and photographer for the last few years.
Ren has always felt immense pride in her cultural heritage and has learned many traditional Polish recipes from her parents and grandparents – a wonderful way to maintain the connection to the country from which they emigrated. Into these traditional recipes, she weaves her own ideas and magic, bringing them up to date with new twists, and adapting them to work well with local ingredients.
After a brief introduction to the world of Polish food, Wild Honey and Rye opens with a short but useful chapter on the Polish pantry – the vast majority of Polish staples are very familiar to any UK cook, and the handful of items that might need a visit to your local ‘polski sklep‘ are helpfully described, with more readily available substitutions also provided.
The recipes themselves are divided across seven sections which broadly flow through the day, starting with breakfast and winding through soups and high tea to end with a collection of flavoured vodkas. This categorisation is a little forced and the sequence a little clumsy; the ‘Light Bites and Street Food’ chapter is stuck between soups and mains, for example (and doesn’t contain many recipes that seem to be street food), but grouping such a diverse range of recipes, many of which work as well for breakfast as dessert, or for lunch as well as for dinner, is always going to be tricky and there’s a good index that makes it easy to find what you are looking for.
The dishes themselves are well presented; virtually every recipe is given a double page spread with one of those pages dedicated to an attractive colour photo, sometimes with other recipes in the book shown as a side dish or garnish. Many of the recipes are quite short and simple, making it a great book for less experienced cooks as well as those looking to bring a little Polish deliciousness into their kitchen.
Each recipe bears it’s Polish name as well as the English, along with a brief introduction. The recipe instructions are concise and simple, yet perfectly clear and easy to follow. It’s actually nice to have recipes that fit onto a single page – too often you find yourself trying to turn the pages of a cookbook without smearing too much food over the paper mid-cook!
The recipes which have caught my eye to try first include the Honey and Rye Loaf referenced by the book title, from Sweet and Savoury Breakfasts, the Cucumber, Soured Cream and Dill Salad from Seasonal and Raw Salads, both Mama’s Tomato Soup and Forest Mushroom Soup from Seasonal Soups and Market-Inspired Sides, Forest Mushrooms with Thyme Cream on Sourdough and Feed a Crowd Hunters Stew both from Light Bites and Street Food (though I can’t help but think the latter fits better into the next chapter), Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce and Pierogi with Buckwheat, Bacon and Curd Cheese from Food for Family and Friends, Blueberry Crumble Squares and Pierogo with Strawberries, Honey and Pistachio from High Tea: Sweet Treats and Cakes and Spiced Honey Vodka from Fruit Liqueurs and Flavoured Vodkas.
You’ll notice my leaning towards mushroom dishes; I love the Polish preference for making great use of mushrooms – one of my favourite ingredients.
On a purely physical note, the book has the traditional problem of not wanting to stay open on the worktop; I wish more publishers would use ‘lie-flat’ binding for cookery books. In this case, that very common impracticality is extenuated by one I’ve not encountered before – a strange flappy plastic ribbon (with the book title printed onto it) which is wrapped around the book cover and loosely taped on with tiny dots of glue. Even treating the book very gingerly, I’ll be amazed if it stays in place more than a week before being torn off, either accidentally or in frustration.
Overall this is an attractive, easy to follow book that forms a great introduction to Polish home cooking. The recipes are all very approachable; sometimes books can be full of intriguing dishes whose instructions are so dauntingly complex that it’s hard to imagine ever attempting them, but that’s not the case here.
We have three copies of Wild Honey and Rye by Ren Behan to giveaway to one Kavey Eats reader. The prizes include delivery to a UK address.
Pavilion have given us permission to share a couple of recipes from the book, so come back next week to enjoy the first of those.
Kavey Eats received a review copy of Wild Honey and Rye by Ren Behan (RRP £20) from publisher Pavilion Books.