Have you ever heard of buckwheat?
Did you know this long-forgotten food plant is more than 6000 years old? It was first cultivated in Southeast Asia, from where it slowly spread all over the world. As an inexpensive source of valuable proteins, buckwheat had played an important role in Eastern European cuisines before it was displaced by more productive cereals like wheat, corn, barley or even rice. Today, buckwheat is experiencing a renaissance, thus filling our kitchens with a whole range of classic, as well as brand-new dishes.
Despite its name, buckwheat has nothing in common with wheat. It’s not a grass, nor a grain or a cereal. In fact, it’s the seed of a flowering plant related to rhubarb. Buckwheat seeds have a triangular shape and are often referred to as groats.
Buckwheat groats are rich in rutin, an antioxidant that prevents blood from clotting; they are high in minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron or phosphorus. Buckwheat is also known to reduce blood sugars and cholesterol levels. It is gluten-free and a very good source of fiber.
Pohánka, the Slovak name for buckwheat, comes from pohania (pagans) – the word our ancestors used for the Tartar people who brought buckwheat to our lands in the 13th century. The First Cookbook in Slovak (Prvá kuchárska kniha v slovenskej reči) from 1870, which features a number of buckwheat recipes, says that ‘buckwheat can be thought of as Slovak rice, and it is a very beneficial food for both the healthy and the sick.’
I was inspired to try and recreate Buckwheat Groats with Sautéed Vegetables after my last trip to Košice and its whimsical Republic of the East (Republika východu) restaurant.
Buchwheat Groats with Sautéed Vegetables
- ½ cup buckwheat groats
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 small eggplant
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 1 green Slovak pepper (or any bell pepper of your choice)
- a handful of green scallion tops, chopped
- ground caraway and turmeric to taste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- oil for frying
- 100 g bryndza cheese (or any cheese of your choice) to top
- Rinse the buckwheat groats in a sieve under running water. Transfer into a small pot or a saucepan and pour in the water. Add a pinch of salt, stir and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low, stir gently, and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the buckwheat has absorbed all the water and doubled in volume.
- Wash the vegetables and cut, slice or chop them, as applicable. Put some of the green scallion tops aside.
- Pour a little oil in a frying pan and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, toss in the vegetables and stir in the seasoning. Sauté for about 10 minutes, turning and stirring the vegetables around the pan as needed.
- Divide the cooked buckwheat groats onto two plates and cover with a generous layer of the hot vegetables. Top with the cheese and the remaining green scallions. Serve immediately.