Secret ingredient: Buckwheat
WHAT IS BUCKWHEAT?
Because of its name, many of us think buckwheat is a cereal grain, but it's actually a fruit seed that's related to rhubarb. And because it has nothing to do with wheat, it is naturally gluten-free.
Buckwheat is an excellent choice for coeliacs and those wanting to avoid ordinary wheat products. It's high in beneficial antioxidant flavanoids, including rutin, which protect against bad cholesterol and heart disease. Buckwheat contains all the essential amino acids and is full of vital complex carbohydrates as well as iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium and plenty of dietary fibre.
Buckwheat is used to make savoury crepes (galettes) in France, blinis and soups in Russia and soba noodles in Japan. It's also sometimes called kasha.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Buckwheat has an earthy, nutty taste and aroma, which gets more intense if you roast it before cooking with it.
WHERE CAN I FIND IT?
Nosh, Farro and other specialty delicatessen-style food stores. Harvest Wholefoods and IE Produce also stock it and you can order it online from Ceres Organics. Orgran does an amazing buckwheat pancake mix.
WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD?
You could use spelt flour, millet or sorrel as an alternative.
GOT ANY GOOD RECIPES USING IT?
Try replacing the bulghur in your tabbouleh with buckwheat, such as in this recipe.
I also experimented with buckwheat in soups last winter, which made them grunty and gorgeous. So when the weather cools down, try this Russian buckwheat soup.
Trudi Nelson is President-elect of the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers. Check out www.fresh.co.nz for more of her recipes or call her on 0800 FRESH TV.
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