Tag Archives: buckwheat

Romantic Seed Crackers

OK, so more hearts! Why? Because…love is crackers? But worth it? And love is a good base for other things, just like a good cracker?

Fine, fine, I’ll stop trying to use bad humour to justify another heart-shaped post. Truth be told, I was really just looking for another excuse to use the rather splendid copper biscuit cutter that I was given as a present back in November, and it does seem such a shame to use it only at Christmas. And so I’ve made my seed crackers, but this time with a bit of a romantic twist.

heartcrackers2

Of course this is not a new recipe – I first posted this about five years ago (five years ago!), but I think it is worth featuring again as it really is great. These are really double seed crackers – the simple dough (wholemeal and buckwheat flour, plus salt, oil and a dash of honey) is livened up with ground seeds, and then there are more on top for crunch and to give them some visual appeal. You could use whatever you like and/or have to hand, but I’ve used pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and poppy seeds.

If you make these, be prepared for “the alarming bit”. The poppy seeds and buckwheat flour make the dough a rather unappealing grey colour, but when they bake, the crackers take on this gorgeous conker-brown colour, making a handsome addition to a cheeseboard or any selection of dips.

heartcrackers1

If you’re feeling creative and really want to work a heart theme, you can also cut out toppings using your cutters – slices of cheese, pieces of vegetable or whatever else you want. Otherwise, just throw them in a bowl, and use them to scoop up obscene amounts of hummus!

heartcrackers3

For around 50 crackers (depends on size):

• 40g sesame seeds
• 30g pumpkin seeds
• 20g sunflower seeds
• 10g poppy seeds
• 120g wholewheat flour (spelt flour works too)
• 40g buckwheat flour
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
• 2 teaspoons honey
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• water, to bind
• egg white, to glaze
• seeds, to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

2. Mix all the seeds together, and blitz in a grinder until you have a fine powder. Don’t go too far, or they will become oily. The poppy seeds might stay whole, which is fine.

3. In a bowl, combine the ground seeds, flours, salt, honey and oil. Mix well.

4. Add enough water to make a dough (around 75-100ml, but it will vary depending on your flour). It should be smooth, but not sticky. Add more flour if needed.

5. Roll out the dough as thin as you can on a floured surface. Cut out the crackers (either use a cutter or cut with a knife or pizza cutter).

6. Brush each cracker with a little beaten egg white, and sprinkle over some seeds.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crackers become brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. If you’re doing lots of different shapes and sizes, bake in batches of the same size to ensure they don’t burn.

Worth making? These are excellent! Quick to make, with delicious results.

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Good Morning! Buckwheat Pancakes

I’ve had a bit of a thing for buckwheat for a while. It’s a versatile little grain that lends itself to being used whole in salads, but it also makes for delicious pancakes, and these are they.

So this is the situation: it’s early, you want pancakes, and you don’t want to do much thinking. The method is simplicity itself – pour everything into a bowl, and whisk. That’s it. No rubbing, no stirring in melted butter, no whipping of egg whites or folding in. Just mix, cook, drench in honey or syrup and…that’s it!

These are quite different to “normal” breakfast pancakes – there is a real earthy “nutiness” to them from the buckwheat. And…at the risk of sounding like I am jumping on the bandwagon, they are gluten-free, so perfect to whip up when you’ve got house guests who can’t eat wheat.

Now there is no need to sit there taunting them with your off-limits pancakes – make the buckwheat version instead! Just be sure to serve them with lots of honey.

To make buckwheat pancakes (makes 14-16):

• 225g buckwheat flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 300ml milk
• 50ml water

• 1 egg
• pinch of salt

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Heat a frying pan and grease with a little oil or butter. Pour enough batter to make palm-sized pancakes (you will get three in a large pan) and cook until the top is covered in bubbles. Flip over and cook until golden.

Worth making? These are really quick and taste really great. Best eaten warm with salted butter and honey.

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Beaches and Buckwheat

It was a scorcher last weekend. Virtually no cloud for about three days, but it looks like we are in the final moments as there have been a few April showers since Monday. Update: by the time I got round to posting, it was decidedly cooler, but hey – good for the garden!

Like about two-thirds of the UK population with access to a car, I took the opportunity on Sunday to head to the coast and soak up some rays at the picturesque Camber Sands in Sussex, just along from the very pretty town of Rye. It used to be on the coast, but over time, the coastline moved out, and now it is about two miles inland. Well worth a visit to see the cobbled streets and charming old houses.

Camber Sands has fantastic sand dunes (some of the best in Southern England), lots of open beach and, of course, the chilly waters of the English Channel reminding those that ventured into the sea that it was still early April. I’ll be back when they water has warmed up though!

Everyone brought along a few things for the picnic. I had a green salad, various crackers and dips, and a buckwheat salad. Yup, buckwheat.

Buckwheat is a funny, some might say gritty little grain. Try one – that’s the texture, right? It appears in blinis, galettes bretonnes, poffertjes, soba noodles and…not much else, at least in terms of my cooking repertoire. Fair to say, it’s also not a frequent star on British dining tables. Bit of a shame, as they are also quite a pretty, jaunty little grain, which just happens to be gluten-free, so useful if you’re unable to eat wheat, or are just trying to cut down (personally, I’m far from being gluten free, and will happily wolf down anything a bakery throws at me…).

I’ve recently made a lot using cous cous, from the fine French type to the large-grained Palestinian variety, so I wondered if I could do something similar with buckwheat as the main grain in a dish. But how to cook the stuff? Oh, what to do?

Boiling is one (obvious) option, but that tends to be rather aggressive and can make grains break down into a gloopy, soupy, starchy mess. So I opted for the gentler option of soaking the grains overnight, then rinsing them and steaming for about 30 mins.

The result was, quite simply, amazing. Far better than I hoped for in fact. The grains became soft and plump, but stayed fluffy and kept their shape. Then I just mixed the buckwheat with some sliced vegetables and added a simple dressing for a healthy, filling dish. Also doubled up later in the week as a tasty supper.

At this stage, I realise this is sounding like every stereotype of vegetarian cooking you could possibly imagine, short of this being used to make a lentil nut loaf. Well, rest assured, the result is delicious and filling, with plenty of taste. I had meat eaters chowing down on this with glee. I put part of this down to the dressing, which contained sesame oil and a little bit of chili, so it still packed a flavourful punch and had plenty of interesting textures.

So next time you want to make a dish for a picnic, give the pasta a break and perhaps try that funny little packet of buckwheat you’ve been wondering exactly what to do with.

To make buckwheat and green bean salad (side dish for 4, main for 2):

For the salad:

• 200g buckwheat
• 100g cherry tomatoes
• 1/4 cucumber
• 1 small celery stick
• 200g green beans

For the dressing:

• 6 tablespoons dark sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar / white wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon sambal/harisssa paste (or chili)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• pinch of sugar

The night before, soak the buckwheat in a pan of cold water.

The next day, rinse the buckwheat well in cold, running water. Drain and place in a steamer (*). Cook for around 30 minutes. The grains are done when they are plump and soft – you may want to fluff the buckwheat every 10 minutes to ensure it is cooked evenly.

While the buckwheat is cooking, prepare the tomatoes, cucumber and celery by cutting into pieces according to your mood (chunks or paper-thin slices, as you like it!). Shred the green beans on the diagonal, and add to the steamer for the last 10 minutes of the cooking process (**). Once the buckwheat/green beans are done, put in a salad bowl with the rest of the vegetables.

Next, make the dressing – combine the ingredients in a jam jar, and shake it madly until smooth. Check the flavour and adjust to taste (you might want more oil, or vinegar, or soy, or chili…go with what tastes right to you). Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well until everything is well-coated.

Serve the salad warm or at room temperature (***).

(*) I don’t own a steamer. I improvise with a metal sieve placed in a saucepan of boiling water,and place a saucepan lid inside the sieve. It forms a pretty good seal, and seems to do the job. Might be an idea for the kitchen wish list…

(**) This way, no extra pot to clean!

(***) As the grains don’t really absorb the dressing, you can easily mix everything ahead of time, rather than waiting until just before serving.

Worth making? I was pleasantly surprised how this method of cooking buckwheat worked out. It has texture and a nutty taste, and cooked in this way with vegetables and a robust, flavourful dressing, it makes for a filling supper or a nice picnic side dish. G’won. Try it!

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Sesame Soba Noodle Salad

Buckwheat is a funny old thing. It is a strange-looking triangular grain with an earth flavour and a strange yet compelling gritty texture. I like to toast them and add them to salads, but only a few. They are “interesting”, but I don’t put in great big handfuls as I would with pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. I have tried making Dutch poffertjes, and the buckwheat flour was a great addition to the flavour, a real success. But I have also tried making buckwheat flour bread. Those in the know will already be sniggering, because while it turned a glorious golden colour, it didn’t rise and it had the look and texture of setting concrete. Well, at least I learned something from that…

Then I went to the Japan Centre supermarket on Piccadilly, and there I saw packets and packets of soba noodles, 100% buckwheat. Why not? I bought them, and when I was home, I started to look for things to make with them. I stumbled on a simple sesame and soba noodle salad with spring onions, and it was fantastic. That was about four months ago, and I have been making it every two weeks since. This is my “quick fake Japanese noodles”, based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson but adapted for my own lazy habits in the kitchen.

The soba noodles have a lovely earthy quality to them, and a slightly gritty texture as you eat them, which I actually white like. Not just a pile of mush, but noodles with a bit of punch to them. The sesame serves to add crunch and pops in the mouth, while the spring onions keep things sharp and fresh, and add little flashes of emerald green and pearly white to the dish. This is all topped off with a simple dressing of rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil. All very simple and easy, healthy and absolutely delicious. Buckwheat, you make this dish a real winner in my eyes.

To make sesame soba noodle salad (serves 2, adapted from Nigella Lawson):

50g sesame seeds
• 200g soba noodles
• 5 spring onions
• 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
• 2 teaspoons runny honey (I used orange blossom)
• 5 teaspoons soy sauce
• 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Put the sesame seeds in a saucepan, and cook on a medium heat until they are toasted. You will need to stir all the time to prevent burning and get an even colour. Put into a mixing bowl to cool.

Cook the noodles in boiling water according the instructions on the packet. When done, drain and cover in cold water. Drain and cover again with cold water. Leave to sit for 1 minute, then drain. Add to the sesame seeds.

Cut the spring onions diagonally into very thin slices. Add to the noodles.

In a jam jar, combine the sesame oil, honey, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Shake the jar well, and once combined, pour the sauce over the noodles. Toss well until well mixed, and serve.

Worth making? Easy, quick and utterly delicious. When you fancy something a little exotic but don’t want to spend long in the kitchen, this is a fabulous recipe.

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Galettes Bretonnes with Mushrooms

Imagine you are on holiday in the French Pyrenees mountains. You’ve been walking in the forests, and reach a remote little village just in time for lunch. What to eat? Local cheeses on rustic mountain bread? Well, if you were me on holiday last year, it turned out that the only veggie show in town was a place selling, eh, buckwheat savoury crepes from Brittany. Not that they are not tasty, just not what you would expect half way up a mountain. But it could have been worse – a plate of cucumber was a strong possibility in the meat-loving South of France.

The particular out-of-place delicacy that is the subject of today’s post is the galette bretonne. I really love them, and they always score well in my book given the fact that they are not a warm goat cheese salad, and thus finding them in la belle France is always a pleasure. These are delicate, lacy, savoury crepes, but have some substance to them as they are made using a goodly amount of buckwheat flour, which adds a bit of a nutty flavour to the crepe. They typically also have a lot of filling to make them into a satisfying meal – often eggs or cheese, but my favourite is with chopped mushrooms cooked with cream and black pepper, and sprinkled with chives. The trick with presenting them is to put the filling the middle (while it is on the stove, if you like it to cook or melt), then flip each of the four sides over a little bit to form a square, with the filling just peeping out of the middle to entice you in.

Another helpful thing about these galettes is that they don’t have egg. I know, a crepe/pancake with no egg is a bit strange, but they do work just fine, and so they are actually the sort of thing that you can make from items in the store cupboard and basic fridge rations. I’m thinking of that moment when you get home from holiday, late at night, and you just want something tasty and filling. OK, you could call for takeaway, but where is the fun in that? Alright, at least you have something to cook for a guest who does not eat eggs…

If, like me, you go for the fungi option, you’ve got to get your mushrooms right too. White button mushrooms will work absolutely fine, if if you can get a more special variety, then do – the taste is soooo worth it. They just add a bit more mushroomy “oomph” to the finished dish, as well as having a more rounded and richer flavour.

Would these galettes (or crepes?) work with something sweet? No idea. I always use them with savoury fillings, and quite like it that way. Indeed, a though just came to me – portobello mushroom and taleggio cheese filling? Now that would be something worth climbing a mountain for.

For 10 galettes:

• 125g plain flour
• 125g buckwheat flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 250ml milk
• 250ml water (more if needed)
• 50g butter, melted

Put all the ingredients apart from the butter in a large bowl, and mix well for a minute using a balloon whisk. Finally, add the liquid butter, stirring all the time. Place the bowl to one side and allow the batter to sit for 40 minutes before cooking. Trust me, this makes a difference.

To cook the galettes, heat a non-stick frying pan. Test the first galette – the mixture should be thin enough to quickly coat the surface of the pan if you shake it and tilt it. If the mixture is too thick, add more water. They should not stick thanks to the butter in the batter, but if they do, put a little butter on a piece of kitchen paper, and wipe the pan with it just before adding the batter.

Serve with the filling of your choice, remembering to flip the corners over to form a square (or be lazy and fold in half like I did with the rest after I took the photo…shhhh!). Below is an idea with mushrooms.

For the mushroom filling:

• 500g mushrooms, roughly sliced
• 300ml double cream
• black pepper
• salt, stock cube or a spoonful of miso paste
• teaspoon plain flour

Put all the ingredients except the flour into a saucepan, and cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat. The mixture should be light brown in colour (from the mushrooms) but should appear quite thin. Mix the flour with a couple of spoons of water, then add to the mushroom mixture. This will make the mixture thicken into a cheat’s mushroom stew.

Use to fill the galettes, and sprinkle a little grated Gruyère cheese and chopped chives over each before serving.

Worth making? These are super-easy savoury pancakes, which have a little more substance to them than the plain flour versions. I make they quite often, and something use them filled, the topped with a little white sauce and cheese, then bake in the oven. Delicious every time!

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Easy Poffertjes

Hup Holland Hup! Love it or loathe it, it is the final of the World Cup 2010 tonight in Joburg. Whether you are following Paul the psychic octopus (backing Spain) or Mystic Mani, the parrot who can see the future (backing the Netherlands) (seriously – see here), there is no getting away from it. Here at LondonEats, we are pinning our colours to the mast, and backing the Netherlands, hence today’s rather attractive header featuring all things Dutch. Clogs, bikes, tulips, windmills, cheese and Queen Beatrix. If you missed it, click here.

In honour of this occasion, I have revisited my recipe for poffertjes, but I have tweaked it to make it yeast-free. This is also a lot quicker, as you just add baking powder and go for it.

The result? While these poffertjes obviously don’t have the yeasty taste of the traditional version, I still think they are pretty good. They still puff up, and they still develop the characteristic holes on top while they are cooking. They also taste pretty good. I would just make sure to use buckwheat flour in this recipe, so that you are not moving too far from the original and you keep the “real Dutch taste”. Smothered in melted salty butter and icing sugar, these things are utterly delicious. Next on my list to try will be to develop a gluten-free version. Watch this space.

One more time – Hup Holland Hup!

To make poffertjes:

• 125g plain flour
• 125g buckwheat flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• 250ml milk
• 250ml water
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• 50g melted butter, cooled
• pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mix the plain and buckwheat flours. Add the milk and the water to make a thick batter. You want something that looks like pancake batter – basically, the mixture should flow from the back of a wooden spoon, but should not flow too quickly. You may find that you don’t need all the water, so don’t add it all at once.

Now add the salt, baking powder, melted butter and the egg, and mix well.

To cook the poffertjes, lightly grease the pan with a little butter (if the pan is no-stick, you won’t need to do this). Heat the pan on a medium heat. Fill a sauce bottle (one with a small nozzle), and then squirt the mix into the pan (saves fiddling with spoons or a piping bag). The mixture will swell slightly as the baking powder kicks into action, so don’t over-fill. When the top of the poffertje is almost dry, flip over and cook briefly on the other side.

Once all the poffertjes are cooked, serve with melted butter and icing sugar.

Worth making? Yes yes yes! As with their yeasty cousins, they are fun to serve and are utterly delicious. Swapping the yeast for baking powder makes it even quicker to whip up a batch of these tasty little treats.

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Poffertjes (little Dutch pancakes)

We are keeping the Continental theme going here at LondonEats, but taking it up a level to something that does need a bit of specialist equipment.

One of the oddest looking items in my kitchen has the shape of a frying pan but with about 20 dimples in it. While I am sure this would offer a very nifty way to batch-fry quail’s eggs, this is in fact a pan for making poffertjes, aka mini Dutch pancakes. These are about 3cm across, and are served with butter and icing sugar. When I bought it, I actually had no idea what poffertjes were, but the thing looked so intriguing (and only cost 5 euro), so I went for it. When I told my Dutch friends what I had found and that I intended to make poffertjes, I was greeted with blank stares. This is the sort of thing you would get at fairs in the Netherlands (and somewhat bizarrely, increasingly in London), but they said that normally they would just buy them, pre-made (shudder), from the local store. As with many things, home-made is so much better, and I was resolved to press on regardless.

But how to make them? You could buy the mixture and add water, but that is (1) cheating, (2) less satisfying, and (3) you don’t really know what is in there. So I looked for a recipe. Some just involved a bit of flour, milk, egg and baking powder. This sounds like the usual pancake recipe and would be plausible, but then I learned about the secret – you need to use part buckwheat flour and include yeast in the recipe. This is a bit more work, but the taste is un-be-lieve-able. With the recipe I use, the poffertjes are in effect savoury, if not slightly salty, with a nutty wholesome flavour from the buckwheat. Once they are done, you could be sophisticated and dust over a little icing sugar and add a pat of butter, or do what the Dutch seem to do – drench them in icing sugar and then drown them in melted salty butter. Not perhaps the healthiest, but one of the most utterly delicious, buttery treats I have ever had.

If you can get hold of the right pan (the Dutch homeware store HEMA is a good bet, with branches in Belgium and Germany too), then these really are worth having a go at. Kids and Dutch people will love you all the more for making them.

To make poffertjes:

• 125g plain flour
• 125g buckwheat flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• 250ml milk
• 250ml water
• 15g fresh yeast or 1 packet dried yeast
• 50g melted butter, cooled
• pinch of salt

Dissolve the yeast in three tablespoons of lukewarm milk and put to one side.

In a large bowl, mix the plain and buckwheat flours. Add the yeast mixture, the milk and the water to make a thick batter. You want something that looks like pancake batter – basically, the mixture should flow from the back of a wooden spoon, but should not flow too quickly. You may find that you don’t need all the water, so don’t add it all at once.

Now add the salt, melted butter and the egg, and mix well.

Cover the bowl with a damp teacloth, and leave somewhere warm for at least half an hour until the mixture is covered in small bubbles.

To cook the poffertjes, lightly grease the pan with a little butter (if the pan is no-stick, you won’t need to do this). Heat the pan on a medium heat. Fill a sauce bottle (one with a small nozzle), and then squirt the mix into the pan (saves fiddling with spoons or a piping bag). The mixture will swell slightly as the yeast gets jiggy, so don’t over-fill. When the top of the poffertje is almost dry, flip over and cook briefly on the other side.

Once all the poffertjes are cooked, serve with melted butter and icing sugar.

Worth making? Absolutely yes! This might all seem like a bit of a faff, but they are fun to serve and are utterly delicious. It actually takes about 5 minutes to make the batter, and about 15 minutes to cook them. If you see a poffertjes pan on your travels, buy it immediately!

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