(Updated November 27, 2008)
Buckwheat used to be hugely popular in the United States - it was grown on more then 4000 km2 in 1918, but then its popularity declined sharply. It is still extremely popular in North and East Europe.
If you live in the U.S., it might be a problem finding buckwheat at the market – most markets don’t carry it or have just the pre-cooked stuff – stay away from that, it tastes like someone already ate it once and didn’t like it. You might get lucky in stores that specialize in health foods or Russian/Eastern Europe food; ask for full buckwheat groats, not flour.
Easiest and most common way to prepare buckwheat is to make buckwheat porridge – which is really, really delicious.
What you’ll need is 300 grams/10 ounces of buckwheat, some salt and butter. Heat an empty pot on the stove, wash the buckwheat with cold water and pour it into the empty pot. Add a big spoonful of butter and roast the concoction for five to ten minutes while mixing it every few minutes – it will smell delicious while you do that. You can skip the roasting, but that way the porridge doesn’t become too soft – babies will like it without roasting more, I think.
Add salt and then carefully pour water into the pot. I recommend that you pre-heat the water, that way it will boil faster. You?ll need about 1 liter/0.25 gallons of water.
Boil the porridge for about 30-40 minutes, mixing it every once in a while, especially towards the end. You can add some more butter, too. The porridge is ready when all of the water has been absorbed. Let it sit for five minutes or so and serve with butter on top.
This amount will serve 3-4 people, but you may want to make more of buckwheat porridge than that. Not only does it stay fresh very well in the fridge or windowsill, it will taste even better afterwards when fried in a pan – you can add bits of sausages when frying. I recommend frying it with corn oil, but try it with bacon as well.
Besides the porridge, you can make buckwheat pancakes, buckwheat noodles (both require buckwheat flour, not full groats) – and they even do gluten-free buckwheat beer.