Buckwheat a heavyweight in nutrition
A quick and simple guide to cooking and eating buckwheat, a gluten free food
Buckwheat is a fruit seed – related to rhubarb and sorrel and nothing to do with wheat, good news for all those trying to avoid the stuff. I have seen pictures of buckwheat crops which look like a field full of white flowering weeds. The tiny seeds contain higher levels of zinc, copper, and manganese than other cereal grain. Buckwheat also provides a very high level of protein which is well-balanced and rich in lysine (think cold sore defense). Why then, is Buckwheat not carried on our shoulders as a food superhero? Well. there is some evidence that humans find it hard to digest the protein, so absorption is low – pre-soaking before using, makes all grains more digestible. While this makes it a less than ideal source of protein for growing children or anyone with digestive tract issues, for most of us it is a useful food to include in our diets and a must for vegetarians and those that are Gluten free.
Buckwheat’s most common forms are, hulled groats, which can be cooked like rice. Ground buckwheat ﬂour, most famously used in Japanese soba noodle and french blinis and toasted groats, which does not take as long to cook. The hulls can be used as stuﬃng in hypo-allergenic pillows, heating pads, and other homeopathic applications. Interesting but how can we eat it. Here’s how.
I have struggled with these groats in the past, over cooking them to a porridge like state. I found a tip, cover the groats in oil or egg white put in the pot you are going to cook them in and heat until they are dry, then cook as directed on the packet. Perfect individual groats every time. If you can not be bothered, keep an eye on them or soak them over night, rinse, cover with cold water bring to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 mins until soft. If you fail, eat them like porridge with a fruit compote and nuts or seeds. Then Peter Gordon in his book Savour, showed us that buckwheat can be fried!! Who knew.
Much like my thinking with pearl barley, I often just substitute the rice or couscous element of a dish and it works beautifully, especially for stuffing peppers or tomatoes. I would encourage you to try it in something, like couscous just make sure you add plenty of flavour.
1. USE AS A BASE FOR SALADS
There are thousands of recipes online or use your favorite rice or couscous salad recipes, but use buckwheat instead. Follow the packets instructions to cook. Here’s a good 5 in one recipe inspired by tabbouleh. I cook up a batch of buckwheat and mix and match.
Summer buckwheat serves 2
- 1/8 cup of olive oil
- 1 tbsp rice syrup or other natural sweetener, brown sugar if all else fails
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp course grain mustard
- 2-3 drops almond essence
As soon as the buckwheat is cooked, drain and mix in the dressing.
- big handful of baby spinach
- a pick of fresh mint
- 4 -5 strawberries halved
- small handful of pistachios
- 50g or so of feta
Add the dressed buckwheat, season to taste. Crushed cumin seeds work well on this salad. This structure is hugely versatile, substitute the strawberries
- for orange segments and use orange essence in the dressing and pecans,
- for orange segments, grated carrots, flaked almonds and pomegranate seeds and orange essence.
- for peach slices, vanilla essence and almonds with mozzarella and basil not mint.
- for beetroot, no essence but include some fresh fennel if you can get it and roasted carrots.
It can easily be doubled too.
I like it best this way. I crush with a little sea salt, roast nuts, a mix of toasted coriander and cumin seeds and fried crispy onions – which you can buy in tubs now. I make 100g at at a time and store in an airtight container. It lasts for a week at least. Beautiful over hummus, and salads.
Put 100g of buckwheat in a heatproof bowl and pour about 4 cups of boiling water over it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for at least 6 hours or overnight. drain and rinse thoroughly until the water is clear.
Line a shallow dish with kitchen paper. Drain and pat dry . In two batches, fry the groats in about 2½ cups of vegetable oil over a medium heat, stirring until it stops stop sizzling and they are golden, about 8 mins. Take out with a slotted spoon and put onto the lined dish and sprinkle with salt straight away and leave to cool. The oil is clean and can be re used. Thank you Peter Gordon
3. TRY BUCKWHEAT POLENTA
Serve it with roasted vegetables on top, with chickpeas, mushrooms and olives. I eat it with a simple ratatouille, use it as you would traditional polenta. This makes enough for four but can easily be halved.
You will need
- 30g buckwheat groats
- 150ml milk -full fat is best
- 900ml vegetable stock
- 10g fresh oregano leaves chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 120g of normal cornmeal polenta make sure it is certified gluten free if you are wheat intolerant)
- 60g unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper.
Put the groats on a small tray and roast in the oven, 180° for about 10 mins. – I am usually roasting veg anyway. They will go quite dark, but watch them they burn easily. When cooled crush lightly with a pestle and mortar or in a bag with a rolling pin. Mix into the cornmeal polenta.
In a large saucepan mix the milk, stock herbs and lemon zest and season with 3/4 tsp salt and pinch of pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low and whisk in the mixed polenta and buckwheat. Keep the pot on the heat and using a wooden spoon stir until every couple of mins it is cooked through and thick 30 – mins. If it gets too thick too soon, add a little more hot water you should finish with a consistency that is like loose mashed potato. When cooked, drop the butter in, turn the heat off and stir until combined. If not eating straight away cover the surface with clingfilm to stop a skin from forming, put a lid on the pot and leave somewhere warm. I like to eat it with roasted root veg (including garlic) a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and another sprinkle or fresh oregano or as a kind of pate with toast.
4. MAKE PANCAKES AND HOTCAKES
They are more dense than a traditional pancake but my children eat them and that means they are a winner. Make a batch and store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
You will need
- 1¾ cups of buckwheat flour
- 2 cups of water
- 4 tbsp of honey or natural sweetener
- 2 large and ripe bananas
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- oil for frying
I simply put the lot in my food processor, but you can whiz in a blender or bullet. Failing that whisk the flour, salt and cinnamon and water together mash the bananas, heat the honey add and mix with a spoon to combine.
For hotcakes: Heat a large pan with a little oil on a medium heat, be patient these need approximately 3 mins both sides, do not try and turn before or they will stick, shake the pan to release. If they still stick you need a little more oil in the next batch. Enjoy with raspberries, bananas or blueberries but always with maple syrup for me!
For pancakes: Simply thin the mixture down to the consistency of cream, with water or almond milk. These will cook more quickly, turn when you can see a golden edge forming.
Blinis recipes here but not gluten free Use less ripe bananas and cumin instead of cinnamon and cook smaller amounts -as for hotcakes- as a gluten free alternative. Turn when the bubbles appear on top and you can see a golden edge.
Top with cream cheese and chopped capers, feta and chopped olives, hummus and sun dried tomatoes, whatever you fancy.
Savoury pancakes; this is a good recipe, needs resting for and hour before use.
You will need
- 140g buckwheat flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 140ml milk
- 30g butter, melted
- 125ml water
- 140ml beer
- oil for frying
In a roomy bowl mix the flour and salt. In a separate bowl combine the egg, milk and melted butter until thoroughly incorporated then add the water. Make a well in the flour and gradually pour in the liquid, whisking to a smooth batter. Whisk in the beer. Cover with clingfilm and leave to stand for an hour at room temperature. When ready to use check the consistency, it should look like thick cream and coat the back of a spoon, thin with more water if necessary. Cook as for pancakes using just enough batter to cover the bottom of your fry pan, so I use half a ladle and quickly swirl the pan, I guess 50 -60ml or 4 tbsp. Best way to eat these, in my opinion, is stuffed with ricotta and chives or wrapped around lightly steamed asparagus with a soft poached egg on top.
I learned from the Whole grains Council that buckwheat has been providing essential nutrients, vitamins, energy, and ﬁber to humanity for approximately 8,000 years. Its ﬁrst starring role as a cultivated crop appears circa 4000 B.C. in the Balkan region of Europe, but its thought to have truly taken hold inland in Southeast Asia and from there spread to Central Asia, Tibet, the Middle East, and Europe. Lets keep it going.