I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Poland and it’s great to be back.
While I spent part of the time visiting friends, I also got stuck into the best of local food and drink during my trip.
Inevitably, vodka and pork were high on the menu. Everything you’ve ever heard about Poles and vodka is true – they drink it in vast quantities.
We were drinking the best of the best and, because it was a special occasion, the vodka was served in one-litre quantities. Yes – one litre. No other drinks were available. It’s safe to say things got a little bit messy.
I also found time to enjoy the best of Polish food and learned a thing or two about the way they do things over there.
I was given a private invitation to a huge pork butchery by people who know that I work as a chef. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was based in a small village and employs 120 butchers at any one time, including the middle of the night.
The business is 25 years old and is in the third generation: the grandfather still works an eight-hour shift, as does his son and grandson.
In the UK, nose-to-tail eating has become really important, but in Poland, they take that philosophy to another level.
At the butchery, they have a strict rule that the weight of meat that comes in must also leave – so everything, including every bone and every trotter, is used. Bones are used to make natural jellies and a use is found for every bit of fat and sinew. It’s a great example of what can be achieved: it also means that animals don’t die in vain, their lives are respected even when they enter the butchery.
That ethos has helped the butchery become one of the largest and most successful in the whole of Europe.
Although it was a big place, it was still incredibly artisan. Every sausage was hand-tied, every ham was cured individually and there were eight separate smoke houses. There were no artificial additives – the longest shelf life for any product was eight days.
But it’s great to be back home – and my suitcase is jam-packed with amazing food and drink.
Will Holland is a multi-award-winning Shropshire-based chef who won a Michelin star before the age of 30 and was a regional winner on BBC TV’s Great British Menu.