Buckwheat Kasha (Гречневая каша), Stovetop Recipe

Buckwheat Kasha (Гречневая каша), Stovetop Recipe

Гречневая кашаBuckwheat is most commonly associated with the term “kasha” although as mentioned in our article About Kasha, the word kasha has a broader meaning in Russian and applies to several other grains as well. Although in modern times buckwheat has been demoted to the status of a side dish or filling material for dumplings, in the past centuries, kasha held its own as a full breakfast meal or even a dinner entrée. Buckwheat is rich in minerals, vitamins, and protein, and it has a unique flavor. When prepared properly – and that is why we are publishing these recipes – it can be both nutritious and delicious.

The typical buckwheat kasha is made from whole grains that are roasted before cooking.  Without roasting, kasha is too bland to many people. William Pokhlyobkin, a Russian culinary authority opined that true kasha can only be made from whole-grain buckwheat while buckwheat meal (crushed grains) should be only employed in secondary roles such as soups or filling for dumplings. That is not to say you shouldn’t try making kasha from granulated buckwheat and then drawing your own conclusions. Thousands enjoy the softer texture of kasha made from coarsely milled buckwheat, and you might join their ranks. The widely available Wolff’s Kasha is offered in three granulations in addition to whole grain, and it’s been around for a long time. Although the most basic and constant ingredients of kasha are buckwheat, water, salt, and butter, its flavor is often enhanced by adding chopped onion, dried powdered mushrooms, and chopped hardboiled eggs (not necessarily all at once). Dried powdered mushrooms may be hard to come by these days, so we’ve left them out of the recipes. If you somehow find them, you can add a very small amount, about ½ – 1 teaspoon per cup of dry buckwheat at the same time you add water.  With few exceptions, kasha is served hot or at least very warm.

The traditional way of cooking buckwheat kasha is slow. This method is rarely used today. A ceramic or heavy cast iron pot called chugunok (чугунок) with all the ingredients inside was left in the Russian oven for several hours following baking bread when the fire was already gone but the oven was still hot.  The slowly-cooling oven would then cook the kasha. Loosely translated, this cooking method was called “free spirit.” These days, buckwheat kasha is cooked on stovetop in just about 15 minutes. If done right, it can still come out delicious.  Russians used to put (and some still do) lots of butter in their buckwheat kasha. There is even a Russian saying: “You cannot ruin kasha with too much butter.” Try it at least once. Chances are, a single meal of butter-rich kasha won’t kill you (but don’t blame us if it does!).  And if you are a frequent flyer at French fries joints, having kasha with butter with certainly be a first-class healthy diet upgrade for you!

Below are two recipes, a quick modern one using a stovetop and a slow traditional one using an oven. The second recipe comes from a book published over 100 years ago, and some of the pairing recommendations may shock even today’s hopeless junk food addict. But hey, life is an adventure, and educating yourself about past culinary traditions won’t clog your arteries (not until you try the recipe that is).

Buckwheat Kasha: Recipe 1, Stovetop

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole grain buckwheat
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups water: spring, distilled, or boiled
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp. salt (adjust the amount according to individual taste)
  • ½ onion

Directions

  1. Roast buckwheat unless it came already roasted (such as Wolff’s Kasha; you can roast Wolff’s Kasha a little more to refresh/enhance the flavor).
  2. Hard boil the eggs and let them cool.
  3. Find a small cooking pot with thick walls and a heavy tight lid (such as cast iron).
  4. Put the buckwheat in the pot.
  5. Pour water on top.
  6. Stir, cover with lid and bring to boil on high heat.
  7. Reduce the heat so that the water only simmers. DO NOT STIR.
  8. Finely chop the onion.
  9. After 5 minutes of simmering, quickly sprinkle the onion on top of kasha. DO NOT STIR. Cover with lid right away.
  10. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed (but do not check too often).
  11. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for another 5 minutes. DO NOT STIR.
  12. Meanwhile chop the boiled eggs.
  13. Melt the butter.
  14. Add butter, chopped eggs, and salt (adjust the amount to taste) to kasha, and stir (finally) to mix evenly.
  15. Serve kasha immediately while still hot.
    * You may sauté the onion before adding to kasha. Try both ways and see which one you like more.*

Buckwheat Kasha, Recipe 1
Recipe Type: Entree, Side Dish
Author: Russian Recipe Book
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 3
Buckwheat kasha cooked on stovetop. Do not overcook. Measure the amounts of buckwheat and water precisely; that will ensure all the water gets absorbed and you won’t need to boil it off or add extra at the end both of which will reduce the quality of your kasha.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole grain buckwheat
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups water: spring, distilled, or boiled
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp. salt (adjust the amount according to individual taste)
  • ½ onion
Instructions
  1. Roast buckwheat unless it came already roasted (such as Wolff’s Kasha; you can roast Wolff’s Kasha a little more to refresh/enhance the flavor).
  2. Hard boil the eggs and let them cool.
  3. Find a small cooking pot with thick walls and a heavy tight lid (such as cast iron).
  4. Put the buckwheat in the pot.
  5. Pour water on top.
  6. Stir, cover with lid and bring to boil on high heat.
  7. Reduce the heat so that the water only simmers. DO NOT STIR.
  8. Finely chop the onion.
  9. After 5 minutes of simmering, quickly sprinkle the onion on top of kasha. DO NOT STIR. Cover with lid right away.
  10. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed (but do not check too often).
  11. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for another 5 minutes. DO NOT STIR.
  12. Meanwhile chop the boiled eggs.
  13. Melt the butter.
  14. Add butter, chopped eggs, and salt (adjust the amount to taste) to kasha, and stir (finally) to mix evenly.
  15. Serve kasha immediately while still hot.
  16. *you may sauté the onion before adding to kasha. Try both ways and see which one you like more.

Russian name: Гречневая каша

Buckwheat

Buckwheat, fresh and roasted

 

 

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