It’s pretty obvious with hindsight, but for most of my life I didn’t realise that what I think of as (Ashkenazi) Jewish food is mostly just Eastern European food. Borscht, pickles, herring and rye bread… they may stand out from traditional British fare, but back in der heym they’d fit right in.
So I was delighted recently to receive a copy of Ren Behan’s debut cookbook, Wild Honey & Rye, which is a beautiful collection of modern Polish recipes. I wondered just how much overlap there would be with my own culinary heritage.
Ren blogs at www.renbehan.com, and she writes beautifully about her Polish background and the dishes she grew up eating. As I suspected, there are plenty of dishes I recognise in this book – Ren’s Polish chicken soup for instance wouldn’t look out of place on any Shabbat table! I was also reminded of my Aunt, who always put rice in her soup, as well as (or instead of) lokshen (noodles). And the photo of Polish Salad with Fresh Market Produce looks like something I frequently helped my Grandma to make – although she didn’t make Ren’s delicious sounding dressing, but served it with salad cream instead!
There are herrings, pierogi, pickled cucumbers, potato pancakes that sound just like latkes, and stuffed cabbage parcels which are making me crave holishkes! But all of these recipes have enough of a twist to make them interesting and up-to-date – the cabbage parcels for instance are stuffed with mushrooms and pearl barley, and served with a creamy mushroom sauce. Yum. The food is fresh and appealing, and as far from the heavy, stodgy food we might subconsciously associate with Poland as modern Jewish food is from leaden kneidlach or greasy gribbenes.
The book is divided into seven chapters: breakfasts, salads, soups & sides, light bites & street food, food for family & friends, sweet treats & cakes, and fruit liqueurs & flavoured vodkas. Naturally, as it isn’t a kosher recipe book, there are a number of recipes containing pork and bacon, but there are many others which are compatible with a kosher diet that look absolutely scrumptious! Ren has brilliantly updated many Polish classics, and has also drawn on modern Polish food trends, to create a fantastic selection of delicious looking recipes that will be perfect for almost any occasion. I’m excited to start trying things out!
Since we are in apple season right now, I decided to kick off with the recipe for racuchy or apple pancakes. They were easy to make, and very yummy. The thinly sliced apple cooks to a soft, sweet filling in the pancakes, which are cinnamon-scented, fluffy, and very moreish! We had half as an afternoon treat, and I reheated the rest in a low oven for a yummy fruity dessert after dinner. I resisted the urge to add ice-cream but I think it would be a great addition to a stack of these delicious apple pancakes!
Kipper was very taken with the pancakes, although exhaustion induced her to have something of a mega-strop during the making of them. I’m not entirely sure what was wrong but it was probably my fault… Anyway, her frazzled emotional state (and mine) was soon soothed by a couple of apple pancakes, which disappeared into her mouth in about a millisecond. A thumbs up from Kipper then.
One other quick note – I halved the recipe, which says that it makes 12 pancakes, but I still managed to make 12 pancakes! I thought ours were about the size described but perhaps they were smaller. Either way, this recipe will reward you with plenty of gorgeous Polish apple pancakes. Enjoy!
Want deliciously easy, family-friendly recipes, and book reviews like this one delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up. (Of course, I’ll never pass on your email address to anyone.)
Apple Pancakes - Racuchy
Delicious, fruity, Polish apple pancakes.
Recipe reproduced with permission from Wild Honey & Rye, by Ren Behan.
- 2 eggs separated
- 125 g self-raising flour (4.5oz)
- 250 ml whole milk (9fl.oz/1 cup)
- 2 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 2 tbsp soured cream
- 4 small apples peeled, cored & finely sliced
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
- maple syrup or icing (confectioners) sugar to serve
In a large bowl, mix together the egg yolks, flour, milk, sugar, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Stir in the soured cream.
In a very clean, dry, metal or glass bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and fold in using a metal spoon. Gently stir in the apple slices.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Spoon some of the batter into the pan to make palm-sized pancakes - two or three should fit in the pan without touching.
Fry the pancakes on one side for about 2 minutes, until golden brown, then flip over to cook the other side. Transfer to a warmed plate and repeat until you have used up all the batter. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan halfway through.
Serve the pancakes while hot, with a drizzle of maple syrup or a dusting of icing sugar.
You can make these pancakes with a gluten-free flour blend and almond milk.
Here are some more reviews and recipes from this terrific book (not all are kosher):
One Pan Polish Breakfast at Farmersgirl Kitchen.
Polish Forest Mushroom Soup at Foodie Quine.
Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce at Natural Kitchen Adventures.
Hunters Stew (Bigos) at Kitchen Sanctuary.
Easy Lemon Mini Babkas (Babeczki) at Veggie Desserts.