Today we will review some useful information about the properties of buckwheat, one of the basic ingredients of natural cooking.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), was introduced into Europe by the Turks. Contrary to popular belief it is not a cereal but belongs to the Polygonaceae family, therefore, it does not contain gluten and is one of the favourite foods of those with celiac disease.
This natural ingredient appears as dark triangular-shaped grains, which are dried on harvesting. It is extremely popular in Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine and Poland) and in some Asian country (eg let’s just think of the soba, buckwheat noodles in Japan): today it is also cultivated in the US, which is now the fourth largest buckwheat producer in the world.
It is mainly sold in the macrobiotic stores where you can also buy pasta, bread, and flour and confectionery products.
How to use buckwheat in cooking
A we mentioned, in Japan it is used as a base for soba (buckwheat noodles in broth), but buckwheat’s popularity is especially strong in Eastern Europe: in Russia, for instance, it is either served alone or used to make blini (a kind of pancake).
In the English-speaking world, it is used in porridge and in the preparation of cakes or biscuits.
It is not well-known in Southern Europe, with some notable exceptions: in Northern Italy, for instance, pizzoccheri – a traditional pasta delicacy of the Valtellina region – is a popular dish, made from buckwheat flour. The latter is also used for polenta “taragna“, another typical dish of this mountain region.
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Another way to cook buckwheat is in soups, in this case, first wash it well under running water, then put the required amount in a pot, which should be one part buckwheat to two parts water. It cooks rather quickly, in about twenty minutes.
Nutritional properties of buckwheat
The buckwheat protein has eight essential amino acids, and it is recommended in cases of loss of appetite, poor diets, in case of physical deterioration. It’s a great food for athletes.
It also contains mineral salts, iron, phosphorus, copper, selenium, potassium and zinc, and B vitamins and vitamin PP (niacin), along with rutin, a flavonoid that strengthens the capillaries; it is an antioxidant and has haemostatic properties.
Our favourite recipe with buckwheat
A tasty way to cook with buckwheat is to make Breton galettes, or savoury Breton crepes. Prepare the dough with 150 grams of buckwheat flour mixed with 100 grams of plain flour sifted together with half a teaspoon of salt. Stir and add 250 grams of milk and 250 grams of water, mixing well to avoid lumps. Add two beaten eggs and 1 glass of cider, stir again.
Allow to stand for at least 2 hours or overnight covered in the fridge. Cook the pancakes in a pan greased with butter, pouring in a ladle of batter at a time. Distribute well across the whole pan by turning it. After 2 minutes each side puts the crepes to one side in order to be filled either with Raclette cheese and bacon, sour cream and salmon, ham and cheese, mushrooms or Camembert and walnuts. Enjoy!
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