As I sit down to share a recipe for Polish meatballs today, I realise it’s February already. February means that the ‘new habits’ of January (detox, gym, dry January, Veganuary) are thankfully over and we can look forward to reinstating some good old fashioned real food and a glass of wine to wash it down with.
Blog-wise, I took the opportunity to have a little break after a very busy Christmas period, during which time my first book, Wild Honey and Rye, may have found itself underneath your Christmas tree. I have been getting lots of messages from you all to say that it did. If you bought it as a gift for someone, I’m hugely grateful and if you received a copy as a gift I hope that you are enjoying cooking from it.
I wanted to begin the new year by sharing one of my favourite recipes in the book (and I realise that this is the first recipe that I have shared from the book) for Polish Meatballs in a Mushroom Sauce, which you can find on page 118. I serve my meatballs with a light cucumber, sour cream and dill salad and a grated beetroot salad. There’s no need for potatoes, although my Mama would serve hers with potatoes (the apple mashed potatoes on page 85 or the new potatoes with butter and dill on page 89) both work really well. Small meatballs in Poland are known as kotleciki or pulpety, larger ones are called kotlety mielone.
I also wanted to introduce a few other Polish recipes that some of my fellow bloggers and food writers have been sharing across the web. If you are new to Polish cooking or to Polish ingredients, I hope that some of the ideas below may give you a little encouragement to try a recipe for yourselves or even buy a copy if you don’t already have one.
Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes is available in the UK here, published by Pavilion Books.
The first American edition is also available for pre-order in the US here and will be published by Interlink Books in March 2018.
Thank you for all your support!
More Polish Recipes to try:
From the ‘Seasonal and Raw Salads’ Chapter:
(This salad also goes very well with the Polish meatballs below)
Margot is a Polish blogger based in Brighton and so I was super-keen to receive her feedback on my Polish recipes. How would they compare to her own family recipes or to the recipes she has tried in Poland? Luckily, Margot was excited to find lots of recipes that she wanted to try out and was pleased to find a buckwheat recipe that immediately appealed to her. Margot’s husband, who does not usually enjoy buckwheat or beetroot, also enjoyed it.
Margot says: “Being Polish, the recipes all seem quite familiar to me but at the same time so different from what I’m used to. Ren has taken traditional Polish dishes to a completely new level, adding international ingredients and modern methods of preparation. It would unquestionably make a great gift to anyone interested in Polish cuisine.”
From the ‘Seasonal Soups and Market-Inspired Sides’ Chapter:
Claire at FoodieQuine in Scotland shares her impressions on Wild Honey and Rye. The Forest Mushroom Soup immediately caught her eye, so she set about making a batch, served with some delicious pearl barley.
Claire says: “It seems that the contemporary Polish food scene is striving at both street food, home cooking and Michelin star level. In addition to inspiring me to recreate her recipes at home, I’ve also been inspired by Ren to add a visit to Poland to my ever increasing travel bucket list.”
From the ‘Food for Family and Friends’ Chapter:
Ceri had taken a trip to Poland in 1998 and whilst the trip itself was full of fun for Ceri as she travelled with her youth orchestra, the food didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. Prompted by the book, Ceri had a longer than usual peruse of the Polish food aisle at her local supermarket and was happy to find roasted buckwheat under its Polish name of Kasha or Kasza. In the end, Ceri chose to make the Potato Pancakes in Mushroom Sauce (definitely a staple in our house) and served them with her own carrot and cucumber salad with caraway seeds.
Ceri says: “The book is such a wonderful memoir of a cuisine that I think perhaps could do with a bit of redefining on the world stage. Ren explains in the book that the Poland of today is probably a bit different to the Poland we think of. I’d love to go back and find out.”
Kellie has been reading my blog, and I hers, since the very beginning of my journey into food writing and I was thrilled that as a cancer health educator, Kellie found a recipe that she was very happy to make and blog about from Wild Honey and Rye. Kellie’s blog is mainly vegan and plant-based and the earthy image of a Millet ‘Kaszotto’ with Wild Mushrooms immediately took her fancy. Although Kellie often cooks risotto-type dishes with buckwheat, barley or rice, she had never cooked with millet, which in Poland is known as kasza jaglana, hance the name ‘kaszotto’ given to the dish. Kellie also shares her two favourite restaurants in London – Baltic Restaurant and Bar and Ognisko Restaurant at The Polish Hearth Club (which, incidentally, are mine too) and selects some of her favourite recipes and chapter highlights from the book.
Kellie’s recipe verdict: “This cosy, satisfying dish is staying in our repertoire of easy weekday suppers, occasionally adding our own touches – flecks of goat’s cheese one time; sauteed tempeh another.”
I couldn’t write a Polish cookery book without including a recipe for my Mama’s Bigos recipe, which makes an appearance during every buffet and celebration in our house and is devoured every time. I was thrilled that Nicky over at Kitchen Sanctuary chose to make this dish, not least because it is known as Poland’s national dish, but also because it encouraged her to cook with ingredients, key to the Polish kitchen, which she hadn’t brought together before – sauerkraut and Polish sausage. Nicky’s dish looks absolutely delicious and it’s great to hear that the whole family enjoyed it.
Nicky says: “Slow cooked pork with mushrooms and stock is exactly the kind of comfort food I love. The stew starts off on the hob and is finished in the oven. A little under 3 hours from start to finish, it’s the perfect meal to cook in the oven on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. I loved the tender, fall-apart pork, the tangy bite of the cabbage, and the sausages added lots of meaty flavour (the kids’ loved the sausages the most).”
I hope you enjoy checking out some of the recipes above. Let me know if you’ve cooked from the book by tagging me @renbehan on social media or by using the hashtag #wildhoneyandrye
Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce and a Cucumber Salad
Yield 4 portions
This recipe, in Polish called Kotleciki mielone z sosem grzybowym i mizerią, was one of the first recipes I asked my Mama to write down for me when I was leaving for university. Polish meatballs were a dish she would very often make for supper, served with mashed potatoes and grated beetroot or with a cucumber and sour cream salad on the side. Traditionally, Polish meatballs are coated in breadcrumbs or flour, but I leave mine as they are to lighten them up a little. This is a wonderfully comforting, family dish.
For the meatballs:
- 125ml/ 1/2 cup beef stock
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 400g/14oz minced beef
- 400g/14oz minced pork
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 2 slices bread, preferably sourdough rye, soaked in water
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the mushroom sauce:
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 250g / 2 1/2 cups white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ½ vegetable or chicken stock cube
- 250ml/ 1 cup single or light cream
For the Mizeria cucumber salad:
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 125ml/ 1/2 cup sour cream
- Small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
For the beetroot salad:
- 4 large cooked beets, grated
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 lemon, juiced or 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp light olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- Pinch of sugar, optional
- For the meatballs, firstly, make up the beef stock cube with hot water and leave to cool. Fry the red onion in a splash of oil for 5 minutes until softened. Leave to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the mince, egg, mustard and parsley. Pour in the cooled beef stock and tip in the onions. Tear or crumble the soaked bread into small pieces, add to the meat. Season the mixture with pepper and combine everything thoroughly with a clean fork.
- Keep a separate, smaller bowl of cold water by your side to wet your hands. Take small amounts of the mixture, roughly a tablespoonful, and shape into small balls – about the size of golf balls. Flatten slightly and arrange on a board. Between making each meatball, dip your hands in the cold water, to prevent stickiness. You should have enough mixture for 12 meatballs.
- Heat a wide-based frying pan (preferably non-stick) with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. In batches, fry the meatballs for 4 minutes, until golden all over. Remove onto a clean plate and continue with the rest.
- Once they are browned, put the meatballs back into the pan, add 2 tablespoons cold water, shake the pan around a little, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil, and simmer on a low heat to cook for 10 minutes.
- For the mushroom sauce, in a separate frying pan, cook the onion in the butter for 5 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms, squeeze over the lemon juice and cook for a further 5 minutes. Crumble in the stock cube, add half a cup of water and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir well. Set to one side or pour over the meatballs in the pan to keep warm.
- For the cucumber salad, place the cucumber into a sieve or colander and sprinkle over the salt. Leave it to drain for 20 minutes – the salt will bring out lots of water and the cucumber will turn slightly darker in colour. Drain well, using clean hands to squeeze out any excess water and transfer the cucumber slices to a clean bowl. Stir through the sour cream and the fresh dill.
- For the beetroot salad, mix the grated beetroot with the red onion, salt, and pepper. Add the lemon juice or vinegar, olive oil, and dill and mix well. Taste the salad and, if you like, sweeten it slightly with a pinch of sugar. Serve straight away with the meatballs, sauce and cucumber salad.
Recipes extracted from Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes by Ren Behan, published by Pavilion Books, with permission. Recipe image credit: Yuki Sugiura.
Wild Honey and Rye News
After a very busy three months following publication at the end of 2017, the year ended on such a high and I’m incredibly pleased to start 2018 with the lovely news that Wild Honey and Rye has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2018 in the Eastern Europe category for Countries/Regions. I’ll keep you posted.
With thanks to Pavilion Books for the permission to share this recipe from Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes.