Perhaps confusingly, buckwheat is not related to wheat and its triangular ‘groats’ are not a grain (they’re seeds). But this does mean it’s a suitable option for anyone with a gluten allergy or intolerance. More importantly, buckwheat is delicious: it’s earthy, savoury and a little bit nutty. If you buy roasted buckwheat (kasha), those flavours are more pronounced, but I find the seeds can become mushy when you cook them, which doesn’t suit this dish at all.
I love the different textural roles the plump cooked buckwheat groats, raw celery and walnuts play here; there’s a pleasing crunch to each mouthful. At the same time it’s a fairly neutral side that will work well with a variety of dishes: creamy and meaty sauces, rich or light meats, most fish, salty, sharp cheeses and any number of vegetable options (especially sweet tomatoes, peppers and squash). Use it wherever you might otherwise have served rice, couscous or pearl barley.
If it suits your meal, jazz up the finished dish by studding it with orange segments or a handful of halved grapes; the occasional burst of a sharp, juicy fruit works really well against the other softer, more wholesome flavours.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 300 g buckwheat groats, not roasted
- 3 celery sticks (approximately 100 g), plus a good handful of celery leaves
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 50 g walnut halves, roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon juice
- Sea salt and ground white pepper
- Combine the buckwheat and 750 ml cold water in a saucepan. Set it over a medium heat and bring to a moderate simmer. Turn the heat down and cook gently for 10 minutes, or until the buckwheat groats have plumped up a little and lost any chalky or grainy bite, but before they turn mushy.
- Meanwhile, boil a kettle and prepare the remaining ingredients. For the celery, cut each stick in half lengthways, picking and reserving any leafy tops, then slice into 2–3 mm pieces.
- When the buckwheat is cooked, drain it and rinse with the contents of a just-boiled kettle. Return the buckwheat to the saucepan and add the celery, garlic, walnuts, oil and a good pinch of salt and white pepper. Mix and leave to sit for 3 minutes, letting the residual heat mellow the garlic and soften the celery. Add the lemon juice and celery tops, mix once more, taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. It’s best served immediately, but is still good when left to cool to room temperature.