The plan for tonight’s post was to write about my national cuisine, but that will require some more research time, the topic being far more vast than I had initially realized. Truth be told, I never cared much for Polish cuisine, not until having moved to Italy. After binging on pizza and pasta for a couple of weeks I began hoarding pumpernickel and all sorts of typically Polish grains, I started cooking my grandma’s soups and I slowly started to appreciate the flavors that, in my childhood, I turned my head from. Beetroot was on such a list, a vegetable that, since infancy, disgusted me like little else. And then I tried it with its traditional condiment, shredded horseradish, which I have always disliked for its very peculiar kind of heat. Roasted buckwheat grains are a yet another national treasure we share with some other Eastern cuisines. A flavor I didn’t need growing up to, very sharp and pleasant for its smoky tones, either loved or hated. If you hadn’t tried it, I much recommend doing so, because it also happens to be a gluten-free, mineral- and vitamin-rich food that’s worth swapping for pasta or rice every now and then.
The recipe is based on combination of beet, pear and walnut, not too novel but with a contemporary feel nonetheless. Use of horseradish and kasha gives it enough Polish-ness to satisfy the nostalgia-fueled cravings. It shouldn’t take too long to bring together, and requires no skill other than cutting into cubes. Smacznego!
Beetroot, Pear and Walnut with Buckwheat
100g roasted buckwheat grains (kasha)
2 tbsp oil, divided
1 medium beetroot, raw (or use cooked/roasted and skip cooking the beetroot)
1-2 tsp thyme
1 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic)
2 handfuls walnuts
2 tsp jarred horseradish (chrzan)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sweetener (ex. agave syrup)
Cook the grains according to directions on the box, usually 15 minutes in simmering water.
Peel the beetroot and cut it in small (0,5cm) cubes. Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan, add the cubes and cook until the beetroot starts to bleed; sprinkle with thyme and some salt, add 3tbps water and put on the lid. Every now and then check doneness and make sure the pan doesn’t dry out, adding additional water if needed.
Chop the walnuts finely and cut the pear into cubes, leaving the skin on. Its green will look amazing next to the purple beetroot. Set aside.
Drain the grains, transfer back to the pot in which it was cooked, cover.
When the beetroot becomes soft, drizzle a vinegar of your choice over it (dry red wine would be lovely too), and turn the heat off. Let sit for a minute or two.
Prepare the vinaigrette: mix horseradish, lemon juice, oil, sweetener and pepper. Taste, add more horseradish if you feel like it.
Add cooked beetroot to the grains, mix, add the pear and vinaigrette and rather fold carefully than mix.
Sprinkle each plate with 1tbsp walnuts and additional thyme. Delicious both hot and cold, making this a good lunchbox meal. I ate mine with a bed of half-wilted rocket.