Fried rice is the most extraordinary leftover meal I can imagine. It’s easy, quick, versatile and it often tastes better than the meal for which the rice was previously cooked. I had been convinced that nothing could replace good white rice here until I tried buckwheat groats. This experimental, fusion version of this popular Asian dish was a revelation.
Buckwheat grains/groats (sometimes called “kasha”, the word which in reality refers to “groats” in general and not necessarily buckwheat groats) are dried, slightly triangular seeds of a plant (Fagopyrum genus) which is not a grass, nor a cereal, even though it looks like one and is not related to wheat. They are very rich in protein, contain minerals, antioxydants, iron and are gluten free, so they can be consumed by people who don’t tolerate it or try to reduce it. Apart from all these healthy sides, buckwheat grows very quickly and easily. That is why it can be cultivated in cold climate and crops can be easily multiplied in hot regions. Buckwheat grains, in their roasted form, are widely consumed in certain Eastern and Central European cuisines (such as Russian, Polish or Ukrainian). In Japan, India or France, often only buckwheat flour is known (although the grain form called “soba gome” is sometimes also eaten in Japan). If you have ever had soba noodles or French “galettes” (savoury crêpes), then you are familiar with buckwheat flour. Japan produces also soba shochu (alcohol distilled from buckwheat seeds).
I grew up eating buckwheat much more often than rice. It was usually served with meat in sauce (it absorbs sauces in a marvellous way) and even though I have never disliked it, I felt I could happily live without it (I have certainly never seen it as wonder food, the way in which it is made popular now by nutritionists in many countries). Taste buds change with age and the older I get, the more often I crave buckwheat’s nutty, strong fragrance and its curious, partly crunchy, partly soft texture. I eat only roasted, light brown buckwheat groats and would strongly advise everyone to try this version first, because the roasting process gives them a unique nutty aroma and a slightly bitter – but pleasant – taste (see the TIPS).
Unlike white rice I always use, buckwheat groats are not overwhelmed by bold-tasting products, such as garlic, chili or smoked meat, and are absolutely irresistible with miso. The choice of ingredients in this dish was mainly dictated by the content of my fridge (just like it happens when I prepare fried rice), so feel free to put any meat, vegetables or spices you prefer. I have opted for a miso and garlic sauce, but a simple addition of soy sauce would work great here too. The below recipe should be treated only as an example of what can be added to fried buckwheat which is certainly a pleasant change for those who eat rice on a daily basis.
TIPS: In many countries, where buckwheat is not traditionally consumed (such as France or Switzerland) buckwheat grains are sold in health/organic shops often only in a “raw” dried form in which they have a pale greenish colour and bland taste. For me (and several buckwheat fans I know) such buckwheat is simply inedible (especially when you know how marvellous it becomes once roasted). To tell you the truth, the only time I bought such pale buckwheat groats, they ended up in the bin because I couldn’t force myself to eat them. You can apparently roast them on your own in a pan (I have never tried it though), but the best idea is to look for the brown, roasted groats sometimes also sold in organic shops and practically always available in Russian and Polish grocery shops.
If you don’t have miso, you can simply omit it. It is far from being obligatory.
Preparation: 20 minutes + about 40 minutes (buckwheat cooking time)
Ingredients (serves one):
80 g (about 1/2 cup) roasted buckwheat groats + 250 ml water + 1/2 teaspoon salt or 250 ml/1 cup leftover cooked buckwheat groats
1 small courgette
2 thick slices of smoked bacon or other smoked meat (I have used smoked pork loin)
1/2 small onion
1 chili pepper
Garlic miso sauce:
1 flat tablespoon miso
1 garlic clove (grated or crushed)
1 teaspoon sake
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Cook the buckwheat:
Pour the water into a pan. Bring it to the boil, add the salt.
Throw the buckwheat grains into the pan, give them a stir and let them cook partially covered at medium heat for about ten minutes.
Lower the heat and let it simmer, this time completely covered, for about 5 more minutes.
Put the pan aside, leaving the cover on and leave the buckwheat for 15 minutes in a warm place.
Cooked buckwheat can be kept in a closed container in the fridge for several days and reheated in a microwave.
Combine the sauce ingredients.
Slice the onion and the chili pepper.
Cut the bacon and the courgette into bite-sized pieces.
Fry the onion in a heated pan with oil.
After 3-4 minutes add the chili pepper.
Fry it on medium heat for one minute.
Add the bacon and the courgette to the pan.
After 5 minutes, add the buckwheat and the miso sauce.
Stir-fry until the buckwheat is well heated.
In the meantime fry an egg in another pan.
Serve the fried buckwheat with a fried egg on top. I loved it with coriander leaves, toasted sesame seeds and a splash of chili oil.