Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce is a delicious Polish recipe from Ren Behan’s new debut cookbook, Wild Honey & Rye – Modern Polish Recipes.
In Polish ‘placki ziemniaczane z sosem grzybowym’
Ren Behan is a British born food writer with a love of good food and pride in her Polish heritage, so it seems obvious that her debut cookbook would be centered around Polish food. Wild Honey & Rye celebrates traditional Polish recipes from Ren’s family childhood, alongside the new wave of cuisine found in fashionable eateries and farmer’s markets in Poland today.
It is not the Polish food I thought I knew.
In summer 1998 I took my first (and thus far only) trip to Poland. I was 16 and travelling on a youth orchestra tour. The trip was such a memorable experience, forging life long friendships, playing clarinet in some amazing concerts, exploring Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains, and a trip to Auschwitz – something that will live with me forever. The food didn’t leave so much of a lasting impression. We stayed in a youth hostel in Krakow and lets just say the en masse stews and cabbage dishes were not for most 16 yr olds tastes. I hated dill for some time afterwards, though happily these days we’re on more than good speaking terms again. I seem to remember we had a Polish cultural evening on our last night, and enjoying the food then, so maybe we’d just had a bad experience in our hostel. I actually had a hunt for the photos this morning, though they weren’t taken very well on a disposable camera, so I won’t be sharing them here!
Anyway I digress… I’ve known Ren for a long while as a fellow food blogger, and we’ve connected over our love of seasonal foods, beetroot, buckwheat, and at one point shared the same blog designer. Like me she had a huge career change (her from law, me from music) and has always been an inspiration for me to go for what I dream for, in terms of being a successful food writer. You can read a bit about her journey to writing this book here. 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.
There are the recipes and ingredients you’d expect to find in a Polish cookbook – beetroot, Chlodnik (chilled beetroot soup), lots of pickles, dill and pierogi, but also some things that you might not expect. Fruit souffle omelette, and lots of healthier lighter cold and warm salads for example.
When deciding what to cook, I basically just went with what I fancied eating! On the day I was due to shoot this last week the weather drastically turned from summer to autumn, and something about the crispy potato pancakes jumped out at me. I also toyed with the idea of the millet ‘kaszotto’ with wild mushrooms and the polish flatbreads with courgette, red cabbage and rocket. Will have to revisit these another time.
When I went to forage for ingredients at my local supermarket I paused longer in the Polish aisle than usual (I bet your supermarket has one too). There, I was thrilled to find roasted buckwheat masquerading under its polish name of Kasha, having always lamented that buckwheat is rarely sold in most traditional grain aisles. There were other interesting ingredients too, however I’m sure in general the Polish aisle is as about representative of an an entire cuisine as the British aisle I found in California’s supermarkets. Of course our diets in Britain mainly consist of Yorkshire tea, Cadbury’s chocolate, marmite and tinned sponge…
The potato pancakes were really lovely as a lunch dish (and also with eggs for breakfast the next day), and the mushrooms on the side a great accompaniment. I used a selection of wild mushrooms in my dish, as the varieties available at the moment are wonderful, but Ren just suggests white mushrooms, so this extravagance is not necessary unless you want to go there. I served mine simply with a carrot and cucumber ribbon salad with caraway seeds. I’m also intrigued that the recipe has a sweet variation involving apple instead of onion which sounds great too – both are included in the recipe below.
You can buy the book from Amazon, and other leading retailers, and it’s out today Thursday 7th September. Best of luck with the book Ren! x
- about 650g (4 large) baking potatoes, peeled
- 1 small red onion (if serving savoury pancakes)
- 1 apple (if serving sweet pancakes)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoon gluten-free flour blend, potato flour or plain flour (I used brown rice flour)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil for frying (I used olive oil)
- chopped fresh dill, to garnish
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 250g white mushrooms, sliced
- juice of ½ lemon
- 100ml vegetable or chicken stock
- 250mls single or full fat sour cream
- Using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the potatoes and place them in a sieve or colander set over a bowl to allow some of the excess liquid to drain. Grate the onion or apple and add it to the potato, Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low heat and fry the onions for 10 minutes, until golden and soft. Add the butter along with the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes, until soft. Add the lemon juice. Pour in the stock and simmer for 1 minute, then stir in the cream and leave to bubble and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Using the back of a spoon, or your hands, squeeze out most of the excess liquid from the potatoes and onion (or apple). Put the potato mixture into a large bowl. Add the beaten egg and flour, and season with salt and pepper, then stir everything together - the mixture should be quite thick and not too dry.
- Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Take a small handful of the mixture and flatten it in the palm of your hand to make a pancake 8-9cm/about 3½ in in diameter. Carefully place in the hot oil and repeat: you should be able to fit four or five placki in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden, then flip and cook the other side. Transfer the placki to a plate lined with paler towels to drain. Repeat until all the potato mixture is used, adding a little more oil id necessary.
- Serve the pancakes with the mushroom sauce, garnish with dill and serve a raw salad on the side.
Some of my other blogging friends have taken part in Ren’s virtual launch and shared some recipes too, thought you might like to read them too!
- Jan from Farmersgirl Kitchen made One Pan Polish Breakfast
- Claire from Foodie Quine made Polish Forest Mushroom Soup
- Nicky from Kitchen Sanctuary made Hunters Stew (Bigos)
- Helen from Family, Friends, Food made Apple Pancakes
- Kate from Veggie Desserts made Easy Lemon Mini Babkas
- Bintu from Recipes from a Pantry made Polish Christmas Cookies (pierniczki-swiateczne)
- Hannah from Domestic Gothess made Plum and Poppyseed Traybake
- Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk reviewed the book here
- Janie from Hedgecombers made Blackberry Flavoured Vodka
- Choclette from Tin & Thyme made Curd Cheese, Honey & Walnut Toast
- Jo from Jo’s Kitchen made Cherry Crumble Cake
- Lucy from Supergolden Bakes made Traditional Polish Pierogi Dumplings, as did Elizabeth
- Katie from Feeding Boys made Blueberry Crumble Squares
- Kavey from Kavey Eats made Polish Honey & Rye Loaf
Have you ever been to Poland or tried Polish food?
*Many thanks to Ren and Pavilion Books for the review copy of the book and kind reproduction of the recipe. All thoughts are my own.
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