We are at that time of year where there is not a lot of edible produce in my vege garden. I've got my garlic and broad beans planted, but it will be several months before either of them reach fruition. I've also got some young spinach and perpetual spinach in the ground, just waiting for spring to burst into lush growth, but the only currently edible items are my kale and silverbeet and some mature perpetual spinach. The kale is the hardiest of the lot, although at this time of year i have to be careful not to harvest it too regularly or enthusiastically as it grows very slowly in the cold. My silverbeet in the main garden has been well attacked by birds in the past few weeks, and has been turned into white skeletons with very little green 'flesh' remaining. However i have learned from previous years, and have some under netting to keep the ravaging birds off, and i also have a number of plants growing in the glass house. So mostly i am buying my vegetables, but i rely on my leafy greens for back-up if my store-bought supply of greens is getting low.
'Buckwheat and Greens' is one of my stand-by meals for those days when i am in a rush, or just feeling uninspired about cooking. Happily for me, this 'standby' just happens to be a vegan meal. It is super quick and easy to make and as an added bonus is also a tasty, healthy meal. The buckwheat seed is gluten-free, high in protein and fibre and is packed with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. It has a lovely nutty taste, and a slightly chewy texture. Sometimes you might hear it referred to as 'buckwheat groats'. 'Kasha' is a term for buckwheat that has been dry pan-toasted before cooking; toasting helps accentuate the nutty flavour.
I always make this dish with leafy greens - silverbeet or perpetual spinach feature regularly in this dish, but regular spinach or kale also work well. If you had no leafy greens available, it would also be nice with something like leek (include as much of the green parts as possible) or broccoli or even celery.
I have never rinsed or soaked my buckwheat prior to using, but i recently found out that doing so is beneficial, as the phytic acids found in buckwheat (and various other seeds and grains) can inhibit the absorption of some nutrients. Soaking will also cut down on cooking time, but requires an element of forethought, whereas for me the whole point of this recipe is that i can make it quickly, with no planning needed. However i will probably give my buckwheat a rinse in the future, as even a rinse will help get rid of the phytic acids.
If you want to go the whole hog for full nutritional benefits and soak your buckwheat, place in a bowl with 3 to 4 times the volume of water and leave overnight in the fridge. You will need to give them a good rinsing before cooking, as they'll be really sticky after their soaking. They will only take 5 minutes or so to cook after soaking (It takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook them if they haven't been soaked), and you need less water; the ratio is 2 cups of water to 1 cup of un-soaked groats or a 1:1 ratio if they have been soaked.
BUCKWHEAT and GREENS
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1.5 cups buckwheat, rinsed (or soaked overnight)
3 cups vegetable stock
Big bunch of spinach, silverbeet, kale or other greens - the more the merrier as far as i'm concerned!
Salt and cracked black pepper
Fry the onion and garlic with the olive oil in a large skillet over a low heat until translucent. Meanwhile bring the stock to a boil in a medium sized pot and add the rinsed buckwheat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the buckwheat until tender - about 15 minutes. You need to keep an eye on it towards the end and add more boiling water if needed, to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Rinse and finely chop your leafy greens and add to the onion and garlic (if you are using leek or celery you should add it earlier while frying the onion and garlic). Tip the cooked buckwheat groats on top (along with any cooking liquid that may remain) and stir to combine. Cook until the leafy greens have just wilted and remove from the heat.