Wild Honey & Rye by Ren Behan

Last September, Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes by Ren Behan was published in the UK (by Pavilion) and I absolutely fell in love with it. I've been biting my nails waiting for its March 2018 release here in the US (by Interlink Publishing) so that we could do a joint promotion and finally the time has arrived!

Ren is a food blogger whose approach to Polish cuisine is met with modern flair, fresh ingredients and fun. In the opening pages, you discover that you are in for a good time when you read number five of her five reasons to fall in love with Polish food. Reason number five is that the fare is condusive to pairing with vodka and spirits. That's my kind of cuisine. Don't fret the other reasons are all based in health, comfort and cultural influences from other countries.

Each recipe in Wild Honey and Rye is approachable and appealing from something as basic as a Soft cheese with honey and walnuts on rye to pages devoted to pierogi all the way to her beautiful, homey Polish apple cake. This book is a feast for the eyes and the appetite. I have a few polish cookbooks in my collection, but this book tops the list as my favorite. If you buy one book on this cuisine, let it be this one.

Ren was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our readers:

Q: Tell us about yourself and your journey into the culinary world.

My journey into the culinary world began seven years ago, when I decided to take a Diploma in Food Journalism whilst on maternity leave with my second baby. My first assignment was to start a food blog, which I was very happy to do since I had already started to follow a few U.K and U.S. food blogs and was keen to join in. I have made some really great friends through blogging and still read and keep in touch with some of the bloggers behind the first few blogs that I followed, cooked from and read. For the first couple of years, I blogged as a hobby, developing my writing and photography skills. I also took a course in food styling, which I found helped me along a bit. After a year or two, I started to get approaches to work with brands and began freelancing for sites such as JamieOliver.com and for magazines here in the UK. Although I mainly wrote about seasonal food and family friendly food, my Polish heritage also often inspired me to share some of my favorite Polish recipes and they were always really well received.

I think the explosion of food blogging around the world really helped people to become more interested in global cuisines; suddenly the world was smaller and our plates were more influenced by food from other cultures. Also, I think home cooks were becoming more interested and curious to try new things. When time allowed, I wrote and pitched more articles on Polish food and travel. I was also a big fan of reading Polish food blogs and magazines and could see that the Poles were really embracing street food and supper clubs; just as we were. Polish ingredients were also becoming more commonly available over in Britain and I was often asked to talk about Polish food on the radio. I was keen to keep on bringing Polish food to a new audience through my own food writing adventures.

Q: How did Wild Honey and Rye come about? How was the process? A labor of love?

I had, for a long time, wanted to bring my Polish family recipes together in a cookbook, but with three children and a house remodel underway, things were quite busy. However, I was starting to see this growing interest in Polish food and believed that I had something to bring to the table. I was lucky enough to meet a literary agent who supported my ideas for a Polish book and as discussions progressed, I realized I was quite keen for the book to have a contemporary edge and to really show Poland how it is today. My agent introduced me to my publishers, Pavilion Books, who loved the idea of a modern Polish recipe book and things developed quite quickly from there. Wild Honey and Rye is really a merging of traditional Polish recipes, with some more modern elements, which is reflected by the bright and airy photography by Yuki Sugiura. Some of my photographs from recent food-led trips to Poland are also featured and I was able to weave in snippets of my childhood and my huge respect for Polish culture throughout the book, too. I was so ready to write this book that it was a joy from beginning to end. My publishers pulled together an incredibly creative team, from the prop stylists to the designers - it was truly a dream come true. As a debut author, I am always so grateful for all the guidance and support I receive along the way.

Q: What is your most favorite recipe in the book?

My favorite recipe in the book is probably the one I cook most often for my family, which is Polish meatballs with mushroom sauce, which I serve with Mizeria, a Polish cucumber salad, and with a grated beet salad. I also love baking, so the Plum and Poppy Seed Cake and the Polish Cheesecake make regular appearances in our home. As we gear up for Christmas, we bake Pierniczki, which are Polish Spiced Christmas Cookies and I fend off winter bugs with my Dad's version of a Polish hot drink made with vodka, lemon and honey, or Krupnik, which is vodka infused with honey and spices.

Q: Can you share a bit about Polish traditions? I'm really interested in Polish desserts what are some of your favorites?

As we head into the Christmas holiday season, I look forward to spending Christmas Eve or Wigilia with my family. Traditionally, we eat 12 courses to represent the 12 apostles, we place hay under the tablecloth to represent the manger, we always leave a space for the unknown guest and we begin eating when the first star appears. This is meatless meal, so we eat plenty of fish, beetroot soup and pierogi made with cabbage and mushrooms or with potato and cheese. For dessert, we have a Polish cheesecake or a yeasted poppy seed roll. There's also a great day which is celebrated in Poland called Fat Thursday, or Tłusty Czwartek, when we eat doughnuts and sweet things before lent. At Eastertime, we tend to make Babka's, which are yeasted bundt cakes and cheesecakes, too.

Q: Tell us about your favorite cookbooks in your personal collection? 

My personal cookbook collection is made up of cookbooks from all over the world - I probably have 300 or so books, and I organize them by colour, rather than cuisine. My sister lives in Seattle, so we love sharing recipes and I'm a big fan of Ina Garten. In terms of British cooks, I have pretty much every book by Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Diana Henry and Nigella Lawson. I also have a growing collection of Middle Eastern cookbooks and I love anything by Sabrina Ghayour or the duo behind Honey & Co. My Eastern European collection is growing too. I'm a big fan of Olia Hercules' Mamushka and her latest book Kaukasis and I was super proud to be able to add my voice to this genre with Wild Honey and Rye.

Q: Are there plans for a second cookbook? (I hope so).

I have had such a great experience and a great reception to my first book that I'd absolutely love to write a second. I have some travel plans to explore more of Poland next year, so who knows?

Special thanks to Pavilion and Interlink for providing the following recipe for our members to try now. Each publisher is offering two copies of the book to our members in the US and UK. Four books total! Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter.

Meatballs with mushroom sauce
Kotlety mielone z sosem pieczarkowym
Add this recipe to your Bookshelf (click the blue +Bookshelf button).

One of the first recipes I asked my Mama to write down for me when I was leaving home to go to university was her kotlety mielone, or meatballs, a dish she often made for supper, served with mashed potatoes and Mizeria, or Cucumber and soured cream salad, and grated beetroot salad on the side. I missed her cooking so much when I left home. Traditionally, Polish meatballs are coated in breadcrumbs or flour, but I cook mine without to lighten them up. I love eating leftover meatballs in sandwiches with plenty of mayonnaise and pickled cucumbers.

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 400g/14oz minced beef
  • 400g/14oz minced pork
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup beef stock (you can use a stock cube), cooled
  • 2 slices of bread, preferably sourdough rye, soaked in a little water
  • freshly ground black pepper


For the mushroom sauce

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 250g/9oz fresh white mushrooms, sliced
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ vegetable or chicken stock cube, or ½ tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup single (light) cream

Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a frying pan, add the red onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the minced meat, beaten egg, mustard and parsley. Tip in the cooled onion and pour in the cold stock. Crumble the soaked bread into small pieces and add to the meat. Season the mixture with pepper and mix everything thoroughly with a fork.

Keep a small bowl of cold water nearby, to wet your hands. Take small amounts of the mixture, roughly a tablespoonful at a time, and shape into small balls, then flatten slightly. Between making each meatball, dip your hands in the cold water, to prevent stickiness. You should have enough mixture for 12 meatballs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large frying pan, preferably non-stick, over a medium heat. Fry the meatballs, in two batches, for 4 minutes, turning occasionally until golden all over. Remove and transfer to a plate and continue browning the rest of the meatballs.

Once they are all 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 over a low heat for 10 minutes.

To make the mushroom sauce, heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and lemon juice, and cook for 5 minutes. Crumble in the stock cube and about 125ml/4 fl oz/½ cup of water and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir well.

Serve the meatballs and mushroom sauce over mashed potato with cucumber and soured cream salad and/or grated beetroot salad on the side.

The publisher is four offering copies of this book to EYB Members in the US and UK (two winners from each region). One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on April 20th, 2018.

99 Comments

  • MadMom  on  3/8/2018 at 6:13 PM

    I would love to try the Apple Cake, and perogies are my favorites, too!

  • rchesser  on  3/8/2018 at 6:17 PM

    Polish apple cake (Szarlotka)

  • lpatterson412  on  3/8/2018 at 7:10 PM

    I would love to just start with their honey and rye loaf!! Everythings else sounds amazing of course too!

  • southerncooker  on  3/8/2018 at 8:56 PM

    I'd like to try making Pierogi. I'd start with Pierogi with cheese and potatoes.

  • contest718  on  3/9/2018 at 7:54 AM

    Fruit soufflé omelette. I have been addicted to Panera's souffle's lately so might as well try this one.

  • vickster  on  3/9/2018 at 7:56 AM

    Beef Goulash with Pearl Barley

  • EmilyR  on  3/9/2018 at 8:32 AM

    Pierogi with strawberries, honey and pistachio (Pierogi z truskawakami, miodem i orzechami pistacjowymi)

  • kmn4  on  3/9/2018 at 8:37 AM

    Spiced honey vodka (Krupnik na spirytusie)

  • lapsapchung  on  3/9/2018 at 9:07 AM

    Celeriac slaw with raisins - I don't know why I've never thought of adding raisins before!

  • Foodycat  on  3/9/2018 at 9:30 AM

    The pierogi! Can't decide on which filling though.

  • JRumi  on  3/9/2018 at 10:33 AM

    The Polish Apple Cake

  • Nancith  on  3/9/2018 at 10:58 AM

    Celeriac slaw with raisins sound intriguing.

  • daniellespinato1  on  3/9/2018 at 11:18 AM

    The leek, carrot, and apple salad sounds so refreshing!

  • cake17uk  on  3/9/2018 at 2:07 PM

    Would try Beef goulash with pearl barley (Gulasz wołowy z kasza jęczmienna) sounds so good

  • sarahawker  on  3/9/2018 at 2:31 PM

    One-pan Polish breakfast

  • Scotsman61  on  3/9/2018 at 9:12 PM

    Spiced honey vodka (Krupnik na spirytusie)

  • matag  on  3/9/2018 at 9:37 PM

    Polish gnocchi with bacon and mushrooms

  • LaurenE  on  3/9/2018 at 10:36 PM

    Beef Goulash with Pearl Barley

  • Agaillard  on  3/10/2018 at 2:48 AM

    Duck breasts with plum, honey and red wine sauce (Pierś kaczki z sosem śliwkowym, miodem i czerwonym winem) => Duck and red wine in the same recipe just does it for me!! And plums :)

  • PanNan  on  3/10/2018 at 5:57 AM

    I would make the Honey and Rye Loaf (Chleb żytini z miodem).

  • PeavineBlues  on  3/10/2018 at 8:17 AM

    Kopytka

  • camerashy131  on  3/10/2018 at 9:27 AM

    Plum and poppy seed tray bake (Ciasto ze śliwkami i makiem)

  • abihamm  on  3/10/2018 at 5:59 PM

    Pearl barley risotto with bacon and roasted pumpkin

  • tori7646  on  3/10/2018 at 8:06 PM

    Forest mushrooms with thyme cream on sourdough (Grzyby w śmietanie na chlebie) would be my first choice! Sounds delicious!

  • sus1ecooks  on  3/11/2018 at 2:22 PM

    I would have to start with Pierogis with mushrooms and cream.

  • aggyps  on  3/12/2018 at 7:06 AM

    There isn’t anything better for weekend breakfast than Polish Scrambled Eggs with Polish sausage (obviously)🤪 Jajecznica z kiełbasą

  • jezpurr  on  3/12/2018 at 7:55 AM

    The plum butter, cakes, and vodkas!!!^_^

  • NaomiH  on  3/12/2018 at 10:03 AM

    Polish chicken soup

  • mpdeb98  on  3/12/2018 at 1:49 PM

    Pierogi with cheese and potatoes

  • ktwalla  on  3/12/2018 at 3:49 PM

    Apricot and Almond Cake

  • ravensfan  on  3/12/2018 at 5:18 PM

    Scrambled eggs with Polish sausage (Jajecznica)

  • Siegal  on  3/12/2018 at 9:49 PM

    Polish plum butter sounds good

  • annieski  on  3/13/2018 at 5:26 AM

    Honey and rye loaf

  • Laura1  on  3/13/2018 at 7:26 AM

    apple cake

  • Aproporpoise  on  3/13/2018 at 9:02 AM

    The pierogi with buckwheat, bacon, and curd cheese sound great!

  • Ishtar  on  3/13/2018 at 1:13 PM

    Polish plum butter. How unusual!

  • Radley  on  3/13/2018 at 2:14 PM

    One pan polish breakfast

  • AnnaZed  on  3/14/2018 at 12:47 AM

    Soft cheese with radishes and chives on rye (Twarożek śniadaniowy)

  • jmay42066  on  3/14/2018 at 10:12 PM

    Polish gnocchi with bacon and mushrooms

  • Kduncan  on  3/16/2018 at 10:21 AM

    Polish gnocchi with bacon and mushrooms

  • boulder42  on  3/16/2018 at 7:05 PM

    Mushrooms with thyme cream on sourdough sounds great!

  • LaurenE  on  3/16/2018 at 10:22 PM

    Beef Goulash with Pearl Barle

  • Livia  on  3/17/2018 at 10:11 AM

    Have got to start with the Plum and Poppy Seed Cake :)

  • Singleta417  on  3/18/2018 at 10:37 PM

    I would start with Forest mushroom soup

  • sgump  on  3/19/2018 at 9:11 AM

    A Polish open sandwich (kanapki) would make a nice lunch today!

  • smartie101  on  3/19/2018 at 10:09 AM

    polish chicken soup

  • Ladyberd  on  3/19/2018 at 3:51 PM

    Pierogi with duck and apples (Pierogi z pieczona kaczka i jabłkami)

  • robynsanyal  on  3/20/2018 at 9:39 AM

    Summer tomato salad

  • ccav  on  3/20/2018 at 10:07 AM

    So many interesting things to try: I would start with Beef goulash with pearl barley

  • thecharlah  on  3/20/2018 at 8:05 PM

    Sour cucumber soup (Zupa ogórkowa)

  • infotrop  on  3/22/2018 at 4:17 PM

    Pierogi with sauerkraut and wild mushrooms ... I've always wanted to try to make pierogi

  • Lmocooks  on  3/24/2018 at 9:25 AM

    Cucumber and harissa yogurt dip

  • Lmocooks  on  3/24/2018 at 9:31 AM

    Ack! Answered for the wrong book. I would love a good recipe for the pierogi with mushrooms and cream

  • leilx  on  3/24/2018 at 9:53 AM

    Celeriac slaw because I have a celeriac in the fridge waiting for me to find something creative to do with it!

  • JenJoLa  on  3/24/2018 at 3:17 PM

    Pierogi with strawberries, honey and pistachio (Pierogi z truskawakami, miodem i orzechami pistacjowymi)

  • choppergirl  on  3/25/2018 at 8:31 AM

    Summer tomato salad (Sałatka pomidorowa)

  • Karla123  on  3/25/2018 at 1:13 PM

    Millet 'kaszotto' with wild mushrooms! I like the pairing and millet and mushrooms...sounds delicious.

  • RSW  on  3/25/2018 at 7:13 PM

    Polish dumplings (Pierogi)

  • Uhmandanicole  on  3/26/2018 at 4:51 AM

    Polish gnocchi with bacon and mushrooms (Kopytka z boczkiem i grzybami)

  • lauriesk  on  3/27/2018 at 5:51 PM

    Mama's tomato soup.

  • hirsheys  on  3/27/2018 at 8:14 PM

    Forest mushrooms with thyme cream on sourdough - looks so good.

  • topdawg11  on  3/28/2018 at 9:15 AM

    Forest mushrooms with thyme cream on sourdough.

  • t.t  on  3/29/2018 at 4:11 AM

    Homemade fermented dill pickles (Domowe ogórki kiszone) (

  • fbrunetti  on  3/30/2018 at 11:31 AM

    Potato blinis with smoked salmon and soured cream

  • Coffeebean  on  3/30/2018 at 6:13 PM

    Spiced honey vodka

  • Dannausc  on  3/30/2018 at 6:19 PM

    Soft cheese with radishes and chives on rye (Twarożek śniadaniowy)

  • mrscahughes  on  3/30/2018 at 7:00 PM

    Polish breakfast

  • Aproporpoise  on  3/30/2018 at 10:06 PM

    I know it’s spring, but I want to bake the spiced Christmas cookies!

  • RickPearson54  on  3/31/2018 at 8:55 AM

    polish breakfast

  • chimpbob  on  3/31/2018 at 9:01 AM

    Apple Cake

  • veggiegranny72  on  3/31/2018 at 4:57 PM

    buckwheat and beet salad

  • Julia  on  3/31/2018 at 6:35 PM

    Celeriac slaw with raisins

  • HelenB  on  3/31/2018 at 10:12 PM

    Quick blueberry compote

  • PeavineBlues  on  4/1/2018 at 7:39 AM

    Barley risotto

  • nadiam1000  on  4/1/2018 at 9:15 AM

    mini lemon babkas

  • Marcia1206  on  4/1/2018 at 1:50 PM

    I would make the cabbage and bacon.

  • amyjay  on  4/1/2018 at 2:20 PM

    barley risotto

  • Shelley.b  on  4/1/2018 at 3:03 PM

    Summer tomato salad

  • heyjude  on  4/2/2018 at 1:20 AM

    Polish Breakfast

  • Jenamarie  on  4/2/2018 at 8:51 AM

    Pearl barley risotto with bacon and roasted pumpkin

  • TanyaD  on  4/2/2018 at 4:19 PM

    Soft cheese with honey and walnuts on rye (Kanapki z warożkiem, miodem i orzechami włoskimi)

  • Sfgordon  on  4/2/2018 at 5:40 PM

    Red cabbage with caraway seeds (Czerwona kapusta z kminkiem)

  • lgroom  on  4/3/2018 at 7:25 AM

    I'd have to try the Polish breakfast.

  • amferrer  on  4/3/2018 at 12:16 PM

    Pergois!

  • KarenDel  on  4/3/2018 at 1:07 PM

    I'd make the Fruit soufflé omelette

  • Teruska  on  4/3/2018 at 3:53 PM

    Potato blinis with smoked salmon and soured cream ~ oh yeah!

  • ChefTamiMitchell  on  4/4/2018 at 5:13 AM

    Plum butter!

  • FireRunner2379  on  4/4/2018 at 3:15 PM

    The Pierogi with mushrooms and cream tops my list of recipes to try from this cookbook.

  • auntietina  on  4/7/2018 at 4:14 PM

    Grated Beetroot Salad.

  • jc214a  on  4/8/2018 at 8:28 AM

    Honey and Rye Loaf.

  • ltsuk  on  4/10/2018 at 2:01 AM

    Blueberry Crumble squares

  • jifar  on  4/11/2018 at 11:25 AM

    Plum and poppyseed traybake.

  • shellee  on  4/15/2018 at 8:35 AM

    millet porridge with almond milk

  • rachael_mc  on  4/15/2018 at 6:53 PM

    Fried chicken cutlets with egg and arugula

  • Carolyn99  on  4/16/2018 at 10:08 AM

    Fruit soufflé omelette

  • hihothepatio  on  4/16/2018 at 1:46 PM

    Apple cake

  • nesshawk  on  4/16/2018 at 7:43 PM

    Ren's Reuben!!

  • lisaevanoff  on  4/17/2018 at 5:03 PM

    Scrambled eggs with Polish sausage

  • VeryVigario  on  4/17/2018 at 10:01 PM

    Forest mushroom soup- love mushrooms!

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