The first time I encountered buckwheat was about 2 years ago when I decided to take on a wheat-free diet. Since then I learned so much about cooking with gluten free ingredients, in fact so many ingredients especially whole food, are naturally gluten-free. At home, we eat a lot of brown rice, lentils, rice and bean noodles as oppose to bread and pasta. I won’t lie to you that I don’t miss having a pizza or a crusty sandwich, I do, and whenever I walk pass a bakery particularly when I am hungry, I wish I could get a straight-out-of-the-oven, feather-light buttery croissant and devour it right there and then. But I learned to adapt to a new eating habit which has improved my health remarkably. All these bloating, stomaches, eczema symptom have gone and I am thrilled that one relatively small decision I made had opened up a whole new world of new ingredients for me, and to have the chance to explore and experiment with these wonderful alternatives, not only in general cooking, but also in baking, where I discovered other different flour types which are far more healthier than the usual white wheat flour.
Buckwheat flour is one of my favorite gluten free flours, its slightly nutty flavour adds depth to many bake goods, pancake and bread. I am ever so happy to have discovered this flour and it has inevitably become my pantry staple. I only make buckwheat pancakes now and this recipe I wrote for Kleinstyle two years ago was the start of the appreciation I have for this wonder seed.
One of the ingredients in today’s recipe is roasted buckwheat groat (also known as Kasha). It is different from its raw form in texture. Raw buckwheat groat (which is used to ground into flour) has a light green colour and a soft, crunchy texture, therefore it is widely used as porridge and for baking. However, roasted buckwheat groat is much firmer in texture with a golden, chestnut hue and a more intense nutty flavour. It is best to be cooked, like other grain and pulses. Kasha is extremely popular and a staple food in the central and Eastern European countries such as Russia and Poland. My Russian friend told me that she loves to add butter in cooked Kasha to give it a more silky and creamy finish. True to be told, this was the first time I ever cooked roasted buckwheat groat, and I instantly fell in love with it. It is perfect to be added into salad as it holds its shape brilliantly after it is cooked, this is the reason why I used my first ever batch of Kasha to make this delicious and satisfying recipe.
In this recipe, the caramelised roasted root vegetables give a slightly sweet note to the dish, roasted kohlrabi is yet another great discovery for me, it tastes so much better than its raw state, a little crispy on the outside, tender but still has a bite on the inside, a pleasing compliment to the nutty buckwheat. I highly recommend to roast the roots on a cast iron pan if you have one, it browns the vegetables nicely and intensifies the overall flavour. The avocado is a perfect addition as it adds creaminess to the salad. The Pistou tights the whole dish together with its pungent, umami flavour, a few drops of it goes a long way. I consider this dish as one of the best salads I have made so far, it is simple to put together with absolute big flavour. A healthy, satisfying meal that can be made ahead of time without comprising its taste. I am looking forward to cooking more with this inexpensive and delightful new found favorite.
For the salad:
- 1 large fennel bulb, cut into wedges
- 4 carrots (I used 2 orange ones and 2 yellow ones), quartered lengthwise
- 1 kohlrabi, cut into wedges
- a pinch of each of the following dried herbs: oregano, thyme
- Salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 -2 ripe avocado, 1/4 (or half) for each person, sliced
- lemon or lime juice (for the avocado)
For the buckwheat:
- 125g roasted buckwheat
- 220ml vegetable stock (or salted water)
For the Pistou:
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 heaped teaspoon of grated parmesan
- 4 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven at 190 degree Celsius. In a large mixing bowl, combine the roots vegetables, dried herbs, salt, pepper and a generous glug of olive oil, use your hands to mix them well. Transfer them to a large cast iron pan (or baking tray) and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the roots take on a nice brown colour, flip over once half way through cooking.
While the vegetables are in the oven, prepare the Kasha. Bring 220ml vegetable stock (or salted water) to boil and then add the roasted buckwheat groats. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, take a couple of groats out and test, if they are al dente then, remove from heat and let it sits, (covered with a lid) in the pot for about 10 minutes. By then, all liquid should be absorbed by the buckwheat.
While the buckwheat is cooking, prepare the pistou. Finely chopped the basil leaves, then add parmesan and olive oil, mix well.
Just before assembling the salad, slice the avocado and squeeze generous amount of lemon juice or lime juice on it to prevent it discolours. Divide the roasted vegetables, kasha, avocado on warm plates, and drizzle a few drops of pistou, serve immediately. (you can also keep the vegetables and kasha at room temperature for a few hours if made ahead of time, or reheat them gently in a non stick pan if they were kept in the fridge. Always add freshly cut avocado to the salad just before serving)