Kasha is a backbone of Russian cuisine. Although kasha is porridge made from all kinds of grains, one of the most common kashas is grechnevaya kasha – buckwheat kasha. In fact, Russia is the #1 producer of buckwheat. There is an old Russian proverb that states “Каша – матушка наша, а хлебец ржаной – отец наш родной” – (Kasha is our mother, bread is our father).
Kasha is very filling and nutritious. During the long, harsh Russian winters, kasha was served in many different ways. This recipe is a very classic preparation. Russians ate a lot of salt pork and mushrooms to make up for the lack of fresh meat. Many dishes incorporated these two ingredients. Savory, flavorful and so delicious, this kasha will satisfy our modern tastebuds just as it did our ancestors.
Yields: 6-8 servings
1 oz dry mushrooms
3-4 strips of bacon, sliced into small portions (lardons)
1 onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups buckwheat
2 3/4 cups boiling water
Buckwheat is sold in raw or roasted form. If available, I always buy the roasted variety. If you can’t find it, it’s very easy to roast it yourself. On a dry skillet over medium heat, roast the buckwheat until it’s a golden brown color, like this.
Re-hydrate the mushrooms in hot water. Place them in a bowl and cover them with water. As they stand in the water, the mushrooms will re-hydrate and become softer and a lot of residue and dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Let it stand while you are prepping the rest of the ingredients.
Drain the mushrooms and rinse in water to make sure no grit remains. Chop the mushrooms.
In a medium pot, cook bacon over medium heat until golden brown and crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel.
Pour out all the bacon grease, except 1 Tablespoon and cook the onion, seasoning with salt, in the same pot, over medium heat 5-8 min, covered, until soft and beginning to brown.
Add the butter, mushrooms and buckwheat. Roast for 2-4 min, until the buckwheat is aromatic.
This will give the buckwheat a much more intense and delicious roasted flavor. It also coats each grain in butter ensuring that the end result is porous, feathery and fluffy, not one big mass of lumpy porridge.
Pour in the boiling water, bring to a boil, season with salt, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 30 min, until the buckwheat has cooked through. You can add the bacon to the kasha when adding the water or stir it in when the kasha is cooked. Add a slab of butter to the warm kasha when serving. Another Russian proverb states that you can’t spoil kasha with too much butter – “Маслом кашу не испортишь.”:).