Buckwheat is an annual grain originally from China and then into Japan, and is also a staple in northern Europe, Asia and Russia. Buckwheat is naturally gluten-free. Buckwheat seeds are roasted and made into a flour - buckwheat flour - which is used for pancakes, especially blinis and soba noodles. The best known way of using buckwheat grains is in making kasha, a speciality of Russia and Eastern Europe and which is like risotto from a culinary perspective.
Buckwheat tastes earthy, rich and hearty.
Buckwheat is found as:
- Buckwheat grains: small, pyramid shaped grains. Buckwheat grains can be bought "roasted" or "unroasted". It is best for flavour to buy them unroasted and then roast them yourself, by stirring the whole grains over a heated frying pan with a small amount of vegetable oil.
- Buckwheat groats: cracked buckwheat grains that are quicker cooking. You can roast them like buckwheat grains and then add to biscuits or cakes.
- Buckwheat flour: use this for making gluten free pancakes, such as Brittany's gallettes, a thin, savoury filled pancake, or the Russian yeast-based blinis, to accompany caviar or smoked salmon.
To cook buckwheat:
- Seal the outside of the whole or coarsely ground buckwheat grains or groats with a little vegetable oil or butter.
- Cover with water or stock in amounts of 3:1. Bring to the boil with the lid on and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Leave to stand for 5 minutes with the lid on.
Buckwheat lasts for a decent length of time, stored somewhere dry, dark and cool, and free from potential insect contamination. Buckwheat flour lasts for 6-12 months.