I went through a major kitchen revamp recently. Which meant clearing my kitchen cupboards from stuff I’d long forgotten I had in there. A true journey of rediscovery.
Right at the back I found an unopened pack of buckwheat Result! I love buckwheat, it’s incredibly underused and underrated. So there’s me all on my own in amongst the kitchen mess getting seriously excited, my mind spinning with ideas. Hurrah!
As soon as the kitchen was operational again, I got everything together for this beetroot beauty, roasted the beetroot in my new shiny oven and then, just before proceeding with the actual risotto itself, I spotted the sell-by date on the buckwheat… Nov 2015.
Oops. Quick dash to the shops. And a note to self that a proper store cupboard clearance should be undertaken on a far more regular basis.
Check out my risotto masterclass for more about traditional risotto rice and the classic risotto method. It’s a method that can also be applied to small pasta shapes such as orzo and fregola. And in this case, buckwheat
Beetroot, horseradish and caraway are especially popular in Northern and Eastern Europe. They work beautifully together with tangy creme fraiche, be it in pasta, salads, starters or a ruby-red “risotto” like this one.
The pomegranate is optional, but adds a welcome hit of juicy freshness to an otherwise earthy dish. Feel free to swap the walnuts for pecans or toasted pine nuts.
This recipe works perfectly with traditional risotto rice, orzo or fregola as well. Buckwheat is fantastic though, as it’s not just delicious, it also adds a dense hit of complex carbs, protein, fibre, minerals and vitamin B that white rice or pasta can’t compete with.
Buckwheat won’t quite deliver the unctuous ooziness of a traditional rice-based risotto. But it will still have a delicious creaminess that works really well with the crunch of the walnuts.
Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto with Caraway, Horseradish and Walnuts (Serves 2-3 – GF V RSF)
I roasted raw beetroot in a 200 C oven to intensify their flavour. If you’re short on time, you can coarsely grate raw beetroot, or you can opt for ready-cooked beetroot (not the ones in vinegar, the plain ones).
Make a large batch of the roasted onion and garlic paste. It keeps a few days in the fridge in a jar and it’s great to add to a multitude of dishes such as stews, pasta sauces or mashes like my cauliflower mash.
Leave out the butter and creme fraiche for a vegan version.
1 tbsp coconut oil or rapeseed oil
3-4 cooked beetroot, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion or 2-3 banana shallots depending on size, whole in their skins
2-3 cloves of garlic, whole in their skins
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped (I smashed some of my confit garlic)
75 ml red or white wine (optional)
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
200 gr buckwheat
500 ml hot vegetable stock (I used Marigold. Use chicken stock for a deeper flavour if you don’t need this to be vegetarian)
2-3 tbsp creme fraiche, ricotta or soft goats curd
1/2 tbsp creamed horseradish
2-3 tbsp walnut pieces
a good knob of butter
a small handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)
Watercress to serve
Heat the oven to 190 C and roast the whole unpeeled onions until softened, about 20 mins or so. Add the garlic and roast for a further 10 mins or so until the garlic has softened too. Squeeze the onions and garlic out of their skins into a mini food processor or blender and blend to a smooth puree. Set aside.
Heat the stock and keep warm on the hob on a low simmer.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and sauté for a minute or 2 until translucent. Add the buckwheat and stir to ensure it is well coated in the oil.
Add the wine (if using) and allow to reduce to nearly nothing, stirring often.
Add the beetroot and the thyme, season and then add the hot stock ladle by ladle, letting the buckwheat absorb each ladle-full before you add the next ladle. Stir often as you would for a rice risotto. You may need more or less stock.
Add the onion and garlic puree towards the end.
Meanwhile mix the creme fraiche with the horseradish. Season to taste.
Vigorously whisk a good knob of butter through the “risotto”. Then turn off the heat, cover and allow to rest for a few minutes. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve on a bed of watercress with a dollop of the horseradish cream, a flurry of nuts and pomegranate seeds (if using). The horseradish cream will start to ooze into the hot risotto. Perfect.