Thursday, June 10, 2021

Amber and Rye - Zuza Zak

It's been a strange sort of week, full of distractions, deadlines, stress, and to balance it all a few nicer things as well. I have almost caught up with myself - certainly to the point that I'm going to spend a couple of hours with this book tonight - something I've been promising myself I'll do all week. 

I really liked Zuza Zak's first book, Polska, despite not having used it much in the 5 years since it came out. I know I really like it because I've been going through all my books with a view to having a real clear out. I have about 160 marked to go and am hoping to get to 200. A good yard of cookbooks are going, lots of Nigel Slater and a little bit of River Cottage along with some Grub Street titles - they're great books but not only am I not using them, I can't imagine using them. Someone is going to get a bargain. Meanwhile, I'm hoping the edited collection will be easier to negotiate.

'Amber and Rye' is a beautiful book - beautiful to look at, beautiful to read, and in this case it arrived beautifully packed (a double perk to getting a review copy). It concentrates specifically on Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and as a generalisation the food is contemporary but based on tradition. The recipes are well chosen to be the kind of thing you want to cook at home, and with the possible exception of Sea Buckthorn, and the definite exception of Latvian green cheese (a recipe to make an approximation of it is given) most of the ingredients are easy to source, especially if you have access to Eastern European shops which most of us do. Brexit had better not mess with this.

The first thing I want to cook, and really need to get to fast are Elderflower and Peach breakfast buns. The elderflower was late this year because of the cold, and now that its appearance has coincided with a heatwave it's come and is going really fast. With luck, if I buy peaches tomorrow they'll be sufficiently ripe to use by Monday and I can forage some elderflowers from somewhere shady in a hedgerow whilst I'm dog walking to bring home with me. 

After that, there are some curd cheese pancakes which look great too - for some reason the breakfast chapter is really striking a chord with me. There are other buns and pastries in it that I really want to make as well. Not that it's just the breakfasts that look great - there's something for every time of day, and a whole lot of ferments as well for if I ever get myself together enough to try making them. I suppose the minimum would be to get a sourdough starter going again - although it's a big commitment to bread eating for one person to undertake. 

'Amber and Rye' is also a guide of sorts to the region it describes, with the recipes interspersed with proper essays about the places visited. I really love this trend in food writing to include travelogue, more now than ever, when the possibility of travel is quite remote. This is a part of the world I want to go to, but if reading books like this, and cooking from them is as close as I get, the way they capture my imagination is enough to be going on with and a lot to be grateful for, 


  1. Thanks for reviewing Amber&Rye and breakfast is a favourite of mine too!