Ren Behan’s Polish recipes for an autumn feast

Ren Behan’s pork rib, mushroom and barley soup.

Ren Behan’s pork rib, mushroom and barley soup. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Beatrice Ferrante. Prop styling: Louie Waller.

Starter: pork rib, mushroom and barley soup (pictured. above)

Prep 10 min
Cook 2 hr 10 min
Serves 4

400g meaty pork ribs
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Sea salt and black pepper
1 large onion, peeled and diced
200g mixed or wild mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, peeled and diced
200g barley
100ml double cream
2 tbsp chopped parsley

In a bowl, coat the ribs with rapeseed oil and season. Heat a large stockpot or cast-iron pan, add the ribs and fry, turning regularly, until browned all over.

Add the onions and mushrooms, fry for five minutes to soften, then add the carrots, celery and bay leaf, and cover with two litres of cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook on a low heat for 90 minutes. Add the diced potato and continue cooking for 10 minutes, or until the potato is soft.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, cook the barley according to the packet instructions (times may vary), then drain and rinse in cold water.

Lift the pork ribs out of the stockpot, shred the meat off the bones and return the meat to the soup. Stir in the cooked barley and taste for seasoning. Stir in the cream and parsley, and serve hot.

Main: roast duck legs with soured cream and mashed potato

Ren Behan’s main course is this roast duck leg with soured cream and mashed potato.
 Ren Behan’s main course is this roast duck leg with soured cream and mashed potato.

Prep 15 min
Cook 90 min
Serves 4

4 duck legs
Salt and pepper
2 tsp rapeseed oil
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 whole garlic head, cut in half horizontally
1kg white potatoes
25g soured cream
25g salted butter
4 sliced dill pickles, to serve
2 tsp chopped fresh dill leaves

Take the duck legs out of the fridge and leave to come to room temperature. Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Prick the legs all over with a sharp knife. In a bowl, mix a good twist of salt and pepper with the rapeseed oil, marjoram and the halved garlic head. Rub this mixture all over the duck legs and put them in a roasting tin. Roast for 90 minutes, then remove, cover with foil and leave to rest.

While the duck is roasting, wash and peel the potatoes, and put in a pan of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, then cook at a healthy simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, then pass through a potato ricer (or mash with a masher). Stir through the soured cream and butter, and keep warm.

Serve the rested duck legs with the mashed potatoes and sliced dill pickles on the side, and sprinkle liberally with dill.

Side: hot grated beetroot

A classic Polish side dish of hot grated beetroot.
 A classic Polish side dish of hot grated beetroot. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian

Prep 5 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4

1kg beetroot
20g butter
1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
½ tsp caster sugar
1 tsp flour
1 tsp chopped fresh dill leaves

Put all the beetroot, unpeeled, in a pan of cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until soft – test for doneness with the tip of a small, sharp knife: if it slides in easily, they are done. Lift out of the water with a slotted spoon and leave to cool down. While the beetroot are still warm, carefully peel off the skin, then top and tail the roots, and grate the flesh on the fine side of a box grater.

Heat a frying pan and add the butter and oil. Fry the onion for 10 minutes, or until very soft, then add the grated beetroot and lemon juice to taste. Season with salt, pepper and the sugar, then stir in the flour and mix well: any juices left in the pan should at this stage thicken up a little. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh dill.

Pudding: plum crumble bake

Ren Behan’s pudding plum crumble bake.
 Ren Behan’s pudding plum crumble bake. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian

Prep 5 min
Cook 50-55 min + rest
Serves 9

For the base
100g unsalted butter at room temperature, diced, plus extra to grease
250g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
1 tsp baking powder
25g light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or the seeds from 1 pod

For the filling
400g plums, stoned and cut into quarters
25g light brown soft sugar

For the crumble topping
30g plain flour
50g unsalted butter at room temperature, diced
25g light brown soft sugar

To serve
2-3 tbsp icing sugar
Double cream

First make the base. Put the butter in a bowl, sift in the flour and baking powder, add the sugar, then rub together with your fingertips until the mix is like breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla, then bring it all together into a dough. Tip on to a floured board, roll into a ball (add a little more flour if it’s on the sticky side), cover so it’s airtight and put in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Butter and line a 25cm x 20cm baking tin with greaseproof paper. Sprinkle some flour on a board, then gently roll out the dough and put in the prepared tin. Use your fingers to press it right into the edges – it will be quite soft – then prick all over with a fork and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crumble by rubbing together the flour, butter and sugar.

Arrange the plum quarters over the baked cake base, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10 minutes. Now sprinkle the crumble mix all over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes more, until the topping is golden and the plums soft. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or at room temperature with thick cream.


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