Buckwheat Kasha (Гречневая каша), Oven Recipe

Buckwheat Kasha (Гречневая каша), Oven 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 2, Traditional, Oven-made

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. whole grain buckwheat
  • ½ lbs. unsalted butter (yes, a lot, but see above)
  • Salt to taste
  • 10 onions (yes, the whole bag – it must have been cheap over a century ago) – optional
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper (or adjust the amount to suit your taste) – optional
  • Extra butter as needed for sautéing

Directions

  1. Inspect the buckwheat and remove any dirt and husks.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  3. Roast the buckwheat on low heat in a frying pan until reddish in color. You may want to do it in batches to ensure all the grains are roasted evenly. Wolff’s Kasha already comes roasted although you can roast it a bit more for extra flavor.
  4. Put roasted buckwheat in the Dutch oven while it is still hot and add butter and salt. You can put 2 tsps. of salt at this stage and add the rest before serving, if necessary.
  5. Mix everything well. If the buckwheat has cooled off, melt the butter before adding it. It should coat the grains well.
  6. Pour boiling water on top of the buckwheat – just enough to cover the grains.
  7. Stir, cover with lid, and put in the oven.
  8. Pour boiling water in a wide shallow saucer or a sauce pan, and put it in the oven. Add boiling water to the sauce pan (but not to kasha – don’t open the lid until done) as it evaporates. Be careful not to scald yourself with steam especially when opening the oven! This step is more important if your Dutch oven or pot doesn’t have a tight lid.
  9. Drop the oven’s temperature setting to about 200°F – 220°F (this will simulate the conditions in a naturally cooling Russian oven that takes a long time to lose heat thanks to its huge mass).
  10. Keep in the oven for about 3 hours.
  11. You can stop here and serve the kasha with your favorite gravy, beef tallow, sautéed onions, goose or chicken skin cracklings, goose fat (schmaltz) or even pour some borscht or schi over it.

OR, you can continue and instead of serving the kasha as suggested in the previous step, do the following:

  1. Finely chop the onions (yes, all 10 of them).
  2. Mix the cooked kasha, onions, and pepper.
  3. Sautee the mix in a large skillet adding extra butter as needed (yes, even more butter!) until the onion is done. The onion pieces should lose a lot of their original volume and turn translucent and golden. Stop sautéing whenever you’ve achieved the flavor you like. You can also adjust the salt level at this point.
  4. Finally, toward the end, a small amount of finely chopped or ground boiled liver can be added to the kasha. We don’t expect too many people to venture that far, so we didn’t put the liver even on the list of optional ingredients. You can try using liverwurst to expedite things. Note that without this final step and if not served with meat gravy, cracklings, etc., kasha is a meatless/vegetarian dish.
  5. That’s it. Serve hot and enjoy (if you still can)!

Buckwheat Kasha, Recipe 2
Recipe Type: Entree, Side Dish
Author: Russian Recipe Book
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 3 hours 30 mins
Total time: 4 hours
Serves: 10
This is an old recipe for making buckwheat kasha in the oven. If you don’t want to end up with a ton of kasha, just proportionately decrease the amounts of ingredients. For this recipe you’ll need a Dutch oven. If your Dutch oven is made of non-enameled cast iron and is properly seasoned, it’ll get you very close to the original Russian pot called chugunok (чугунок) even though the shape of chugunok is different. The volume of your Dutch oven should be twice the volume of the buckwheat before adding water.
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. whole grain buckwheat
  • ½ lbs. unsalted butter (yes, a lot, but see above)
  • Salt to taste
  • 10 onions (yes, the whole bag – it must have been cheap over a century ago) – optional
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper (or adjust the amount to suit your taste) – optional
  • Extra butter as needed for sautéing
Instructions
  1. Inspect the buckwheat and remove any dirt and husks.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  3. Roast the buckwheat on low heat in a frying pan until reddish in color. You may want to do it in batches to ensure all the grains are roasted evenly. Wolff’s Kasha already comes roasted although you can roast it a bit more for extra flavor.
  4. Put roasted buckwheat in the Dutch oven while it is still hot and add butter and salt. You can put 2 tsps. of salt at this stage and add the rest before serving, if necessary.
  5. Mix everything well. If the buckwheat has cooled off, melt the butter before adding it. It should coat the grains well.
  6. Pour boiling water on top of the buckwheat – just enough to cover the grains.
  7. Stir, cover with lid, and put in the oven.
  8. Pour boiling water in a wide shallow saucer or a sauce pan, and put it in the oven. Add boiling water to the sauce pan (but not to kasha – don’t open the lid until done) as it evaporates. Be careful not to scald yourself with steam especially when opening the oven! This step is more important if your Dutch oven or pot doesn’t have a tight lid.
  9. Drop the oven’s temperature setting to about 200°F – 220°F (this will simulate the conditions in a naturally cooling Russian oven that takes a long time to lose heat thanks to its huge mass).
  10. Keep in the oven for about 3 hours.
  11. You can stop here and serve the kasha with your favorite gravy, beef tallow, sautéed onions, goose or chicken skin cracklings, goose fat (schmaltz) or even pour some borscht or schi over it.
  12. —————————————————-
  13. OR, you can continue and instead of serving the kasha as suggested in the previous step, do the following:
  14. Finely chop the onions (yes, all 10 of them).
  15. Mix the cooked kasha, onions, and pepper.
  16. Sautee the mix in a large skillet adding extra butter as needed (yes, even more butter!) until the onion is done. The onion pieces should lose a lot of their original volume and turn translucent and golden. Stop sautéing whenever you’ve achieved the flavor you like. You can also adjust the salt level at this point.
  17. Finally, toward the end, a small amount of finely chopped or ground boiled liver can be added to the kasha. We don’t expect too many people to venture that far, so we didn’t put the liver even on the list of optional ingredients. You can try using liverwurst to expedite things. Note that without this final step and if not served with meat gravy, cracklings, etc., kasha is a meatless/vegetarian dish.
  18. That’s it. Serve hot and enjoy (if you still can)!

Russian name: Гречневая каша

Buckwheat

Buckwheat, fresh and roasted

 

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