Wild Honey & Rye: Modern Polish Recipes, written by Ren Behan, features some of the best of Polish cuisine with childhood favorites paired alongside new and seasonal fare. Highlights include Leszcz Pieczony z Sosem Koperkowym (Baked Bream with Dill Butter Sauce), Powidła Śliwkowe (Polish Plum Butter), Marchewka z Miodem I Anyżem (Carrots with Honey and Star Anise), Grzyby w Śmietanie na Chlebie (Forest Mushrooms with Thyme Cream on Sourdough), and Kruchy Placek z Jagodami (Blueberry Crumble Squares). I will also be sharing her recipe for Jajecznica, Scrambled Eggs with Polish Sausage, following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Ren Behan was born in England to Polish parents who were post-Second World War émigrés. Previously a lawyer, she started her food blog (originally called Fabulicious Food) in November 2010 during a career break following the birth of her first child. Since then, her work has been featured on Food 52, JamieOliver.com, Great British Chefs, and more. Wild Honey and Rye is her first cookbook.
Chapters are divided according to course: Śniadanie (Sweet and savory breakfasts); Sałatki i surówki (Seasonal and raw salads); Zupy, jarzyny i przystawki (Seasonal soups and market-inspired sides); Zakąski I przekąski (Light bites and street food); Przepisy dla rodziny i przyjaciół (Food for family and friends); Podwieczorek na słodko (High tea: sweet treats and cakes); and Nalewki i wódki (Fruit liqueurs and flavored vodkas).
Ren begins with an introduction into her life and how her love of good food and pride for her Polish heritage were inspiration to create this book along with recent visits to Poland. She includes her favorite things about Polish cooking from its versatility to its fresh and vibrant use of seasonal ingredients. I absolutely love all the personal touches with the collection of family photos and childhood stories paired with the recipes.
The beautiful photography is provided by Yuki Sugiura. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full page photo of the finished dish. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in English and Polish. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, serving size, and tips.
This book is a great pick for those interested in Polish cuisine. There is such an incredible assortment of recipes with plenty of Pierogi, comforting meals, soups filled with fresh vegetables, flavored vodkas (there is even a whole chapter dedicated to this with flavors such as Rabarbarówka z Wanilią/Rhubarb and Vanilla, Przypalanka z Solą Morską/Salted Caramel, and Krupnik na Spirytusie/Spiced Honey), sweet treats, and breakfast favorites. Many of the ingredients are readily available in larger supermarkets and there is a basic pantry guide with descriptions of popular herbs, spices, flours, grains, and deli products. Some items that may be difficult to locate include star anise, allspice berries, red currants, twaróg sernikowy (can be switched for cream cheese), buckwheat, duck, barley groats, and herring fillets. Substitutions are provided when available. Complexity ranges from easy everyday meals to more time-consuming homestyle baking and stews.
Jajecznica (Scrambled Eggs with Sausage)
Jajecznica (Scrambled Eggs with Polish Sausage) is a simple, yet comforting way to start the day. Ren’s father would make this dish for her when she was a child. Eggs are lightly scrambled and cooked just until they are starting to set with crisp slices of Polish sausage. They should be served very soft with fresh bread, preferably rye (I used her recipe for the Honey and Rye Loaf) and a sprinkling of fresh chives.
Ren likes to use wiejska (farmhouse sausage- more widely available), but any type of smoked Polish sausage will work well.
I also made Chleb Żytni z Miodem (Honey and Rye Loaf), Szparagi Po Polsku (Asparagus à la Polonaise), Kopytka z Boczkiem i Grzybami (Polish Gnocchi with Bacon and Mushrooms), and Pierogi z Truskawkami, Miodem i Orzechami Pistacjowymi (Pierogi with Strawberries, Honey, and Pistachios).
The very first recipe in the book is for a Chleb Żytni z Miodem (Honey and Rye Loaf). This simple can be used as the foundation for so many other recipes in the subsequent chapters including the Jajecznica (Scrambled Eggs with Sausage). Ren also recommends serving it with butter, twaróg (Polish soft cheese), or cream cheese and honey.
I just loved the presentation of the Szparagi Po Polsku (Asparagus à la Polonaise). The dish is so easy, yet elegant. The method “à la Polonaise” refers to French cooking influenced in a Polish manner by topping cooked vegetables with buttery breadcrumbs and sometimes a chopped hard-boiled egg. For this version, Ren tops asparagus stalks with buttery pieces of pan-fried sourdough bread, a little lemon zest, fresh dill, and a poached egg. I have very little experience poaching eggs, but mine came out perfectly with her easy-to-follow instructions.
The Kopytka z Boczkiem i Grzybami (Polish Gnocchi with Bacon and Mushrooms) was such a wonderful comfort food. Potatoes are mashed and combined with flour and egg to form little pillowy dumplings. The word Kopytka actually translates to “little hooves” and they are also sometimes called paluszki- “little fingers.” For this particular recipe, the dumplings are paired with bacon and mushrooms for a delicious dinner. I also love the idea of serving with with melted butter and a drizzle of honey for a sweeter treat.
There is such a fun variety of Pierogi featured in this book. I have made Pierogi z Truskawkami before, but couldn’t resist trying Ren’s Pierogi z Truskawkami, Miodem i Orzechami Pistacjowymi (Pierogi with Strawberries, Honey, and Pistachios). Each pierogi is simply filled with a halved or quartered strawberry, boiled until cooked through, pan-fried with butter, and finished off with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of pistachios. You can also fill the pierogi with blueberries and top them with a cinnamon whipped cream. Other pierogi fillings featured include mushrooms and cream, duck and apples, cheese and potatoes, and more.
Jajecznica (Scrambled Eggs with Polish Sausage) Recipe
Excerpt from Wild Honey & Rye
Jajecznica (Scrambled Eggs with Polish Sausage)
- 2 teaspoons butter or vegetable oil
- 1 3/4 ounces (50 grams) Polish sausage sliced
- 2-3 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
- 2 slices bread preferably rye for serving
Put a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat and add the butter or oil. Add the sliced sausage and cook for 2 minutes, until it starts to color and crisp.
Pour the eggs into the frying pan. Leave them to set for a minute or two and then gently stir them with a wooden spoon and let them sit again for 30 seconds. Continue, stirring gently, until the eggs are just starting to set.
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with chives, and serve with rye bread.