- Prep time 15 minutes
- Serves 4
Buckwheat is an important staple of Ukrainian cooking and baking. Despite its name, buckwheat is not a wheat at all. Harvard Health Publishing writes that “it's not even a grain but rather a seed that's harvested from a flowering plant related to rhubarb.” Yet another delightful surprise is that buckwheat is gluten-free and can be enjoyed by those with gluten intolerance.
The use of buckwheat has ancient roots in Ukraine. It was a staple meal of Ukrainian peasants going back 1,000 years. Historically, buckwheat is Ukraine's most popular side dish—it’s our side of rice, better known as buckwheat kasha. The word kasha broadly refers to any baked cereal or porridge. It is frequently served with sautéed mushrooms; small pieces of meat or caramelized onions transform a humble side dish into a hearty and nutritious meal.
This soup holds a very special place in my heart. As a kid, whenever I was feeling down or under the weather, I would ask my mom to make me a bowl of her buckwheat soup. Just the aroma of the garlicky broth would bring me back to life. It is the perfect fall weather soup in my book as it is hearty, light, and nourishing. My mom’s buckwheat soup recipe is inspired by the classical pairing of buckwheat and sautéed mushrooms. Additionally, her recipe incorporates two more staple ingredients of Ukrainian cuisine: pork and garlic.
The most important step before starting the recipe is finding the correct type of buckwheat. You need to use roasted buckwheat. You can find it easily in any Eastern European grocery store or buy it online. Do not substitute with green buckwheat that you find in health stores, as it lacks the characteristic flavors that you absolutely need for this soup. To make this dish extra special, serve it with slices of sourdough buckwheat bread. —Olga Koutseridi
1 1/2 pounds
dried bay leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
large yellow onion, finely diced
mushroom, such as shiitake, crimini, or button, sliced ¼ inch thick
medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons
ground black pepper
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
Crusty sourdough bread, for serving
- In a large pot set over medium-high heat, place the pork ribs, peppercorns, and bay leaves and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours until the meat is fork-tender. Use a sieve to remove any impurities that rise to the surface.
- In a 10-inch wide sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally until the mushrooms are soft and lightly brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Once the meat on the bone is tender, add the potatoes to the pot, and increase heat to medium for 15 minutes. Add the sautéed onions and mushrooms to the pot, bring back to a simmer, and boil for another 15 minutes.
- Once the potatoes are tender, add the buckwheat and boil until the buckwheat groats are tender, about 15 minutes. When the buckwheat is done, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ¾ teaspoon black pepper. Turn off the heat. Using a garlic press or microplane, add finely pressed garlic cloves. Stir to incorporate. Rest for 20 minutes with the lid on. Remove the bay leaves, discard any visible bones, and serve with slices of crusty sourdough bread.