Buckwheat pilaf -Russian kitchen meets Persian


Hi there!

Today I want to share something very special. Usually, buckwheat is found in the organic foods sections of the supermarkets and not really popular among those who are not after pure organic and healthy food lifestyle. However for me, born and raised in the long gone Soviet Union, buckwheat is a taste of childhood, no less than that. Back then, unlike many other foods, buckwheat was freely available in the stores, and that made it one of the pillars of russian cuisine. The dish I am about to show you had no name other than “buckwheat with meat”… But I’ve taken it a bit further, upgraded it to the next level, if you like, and took the liberty to compare it with another dish I really like – persian pilaf, as, mind you, the preparation steps are almost identical. Hence, here I am, giving you the “buckwheat pilaf”, a dish which is about to change all you’ve known about buckwheat till now!

Traditionally, pilaf is made of lamb meat… But it is by far not a must. You can use any meat you like, and today I am cooking with chicken. So, the ingredients:

  • 600 g (about 1.5 lb) chicken thigh meat, cubed
  • 2 big onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 600 g (about 1.5 lb) roasted buckwheat
  • about 1.5 l (1.6 quarts) boiling water
  • ~2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp finely ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.3 cup canola or any other vegetable oil
  • 0.2 cup olive oil

So, we begin with heating all the oil in a big pot or better a dutch oven. Originally, the pilaf is cooked in a traditional dish called “kazan”, but I would not expect you to have it, so a heavy bottom pot will do.

Once the oil is very hot, add the sliced onion and stir fry on a very high heat until it begins to golden, about 5-6 minutes. Then – add the cubed meat and stir fry until the meat changes a color, another 4-5 minutes.

Add the diced carrots, stir and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of salt, 1/2 tbsp of black pepper and 1 tsp of ground cumin. Stir, add the boiling water, enough to cover the meat in the pot.  Bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.

Taste and correct the seasoning, if needed. I know I’ve added some more salt and more pepper, and also a bit more of cumin, but it’s really a matter of a personal taste.

Finally, lay all the buckwheat out on top of the meat. Do not stir! It’s really important – the whole idea of pilaf is cooking it by layers. Once all the water is absorbed, the remaining liquids below the buckwheat layer will be steaming it, giving it a unique texture and taste.

Carefully pour about 1 l (a bit more than 1 quart) of boiling water on top of the buckwheat layer, so it won’t be too disturbed. The principle is to have twice as much water as you had buckwheat, but since we’ve already added water earlier, this time it’ll be a bit less… Anyway, the water will cover the buckwheat layer about 2 cm (a bit less than 1″). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and let simmer until all water is absorbed by the buckwheat.

Final stage – tightly cover (I use a sheet of baking parchment and a pot lid on top), lower the heat to minimum and let it steam for another 30-40 minutes… Open very carefully, stir and serve.



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