Traditional Belarusian cookery makes much of buckwheat, a plant that grows better than wheat (no relation) under Belarus’ climatic and soil conditions. This example of a buckwheat pilaf is made with hulled wholegrain buckwheat seeds, whole seeds not yet cracked into the groats used for kasha. The seasonings are classic Belarus: bay leaf and black pepper to “beef-up” the vegetable stock (or enhance a meat stock), and finely-diced mushroom for an earthy flavour top complement the nuttiness of buckwheat. In Belarus a buckwheat pilaf might be eaten on its own, or with a sour cream garnish, or placed inside a roasting dusk or goose, a coincidentally gluten-free stuffing for your Holidays. Without the bird, this moist and flavourful pilaf would be a great substitute for holiday stuffing, served as a garnish beside your goose or turkey but without all the saturated fat. Serve or stuff, it’s up to you.
The single most important thing when making this pilaf is to purchase hulled wholegrain buckwheat seeds in their curvy-pyramidal entirety, not the cracked or ground version of same. The wholegrain seed will hold its shape better while remaining more distinct in the pilaf; cracked kasha, which is the Slavic term for porridge, tends to become just that. The instructions on my bag of grains, plain-old Tesco house brand, read to boil for half an hour, a cooking time that presumably would have given me porridge. Pilaf tenderness was arrived at in ten minutes. Many buckwheat pilaf recipes toast egg-smeared groats or seeds in order to keep them distinct, but this is not strictly necessary with uncracked seeds. Whole hulled grains that are well-toasted alone, simmered gently and not overcooked hold their shape well. It is important that the pilaf be reasonably dry at the end if it is to be fluffy, so it’s a good idea to knock it around a little on a large plate to let it steam-off. The onion and mushrooms are chopped very finely for uniformity, and the mushrooms are added late so that they retain their moisture. The amount made here should stuff a chicken easily, but to stuff a big turkey (or an astoundingly hollow goose) you would obviously need to make more. At worst, have some left over for a healthy side, or to use in the next day’s soup.
By reading Dianne’s and Ilva’s blogs, I learned about the Heart of the Matter (HotM) Event Number 9: Holiday Food, which draws attention to heart-healthy eating and is coordinated this month by The Accidental Scientist. In my home I cook for multiple food allergies, some transient and some permanent, and I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone struggling to accomodate yet one more dietary need. So, in my first-ever entry into anything of the kind, I’m submitting this post to the HotM9 Event, as a gluten-free heart-healthy holiday food. In particular, I would like to dedicate this recipe to Dianne’s husband, and wish him a steady recovery from heart attack.
By my back-of-the-napkin calculations, I believe that each serving of pilaf (made with a low sodium vegetable broth, knowing nothing of that roast, and with no additional salt) contains: 275 kcal; 5g total fat; 1g saturated fat; 0g trans fat; 0mg cholesterol; 75mg sodium; 50g total carbohydrate; 3g fibre; 5g sugar; 9g protien. Pardon my sig digs.
Belarusian Buckwheat Mushroom Pilaf (or Stuffing)
Twenty minutes; serves four
2 cups vegetable broth (may substitute chicken or beef broth)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 cup wholegrain hulled buckwheat
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced almost as small as the dry buckwheat
4 oz mushrooms, finely diced almost as small as the dry buckwheat
cracked black pepper
salt, as you wish
1. In a medium saucepan heat the broth to a boil with the bay leaf and black pepper.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet dry-toast the buckwheat over medium-low heat. Keep stirring and shaking and moving them around for a few minutes as they lose their green tint and turn a nut-brown.
3. Add the buckwheat to the broth, cover, and keep over the lowest heat until just tender, about ten minutes.
4. Heat the olive oil in the skillet and sautee the onion until golden, about eight minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir them around to heat and coat. In about a minute when they will start to lose their moisture take them off heat. Season with black pepper.
5. When the buckwheat is tender, turn it onto a large plate and gently fluff the grains with a fork to separate them and remove some excess moisture. Fold in the mushroom and onion, and season with salt to taste.