Buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum) is used very much in Polish cookery as the plant grows well in a cold climate. Buckwheat requires a well drained soil but without too much fertiliser – lots of fertiliser reduces the yield. It is not in fact a grass or cereal crop but the flour is used in much the same way as wheat.
Buckwheat is related to sorrel and rhubarb and has small triangular seeds. The plant originated in South East Asia and then was brought to Europe.
I have read that it came to Poland via Manchuria and Siberia but the Polish word for buckwheat – gryka indicates that it came from the Greeks – I have also read that the plant was brought to areas of what are now Eastern Poland, Russia & the Ukraine in the 7th century by Byzantine Greeks.
Another regional word used in Polish for buckwheat is hreczka – this again suggests a Greek origin.
Photographs from the book Kuchnia Polska by Maciej Kuroń
The triangular seeds have a strong scent which is quite distinctive and the flour is grey/speckled black in colour. It is mixed with wheat flour to make pancakes and bliny.
Bliny are popular in Eastern Poland and in the area called Kresy – the Eastern Borderlands – from where both my parents came as well as in the Ukraine and Russia.
The word bliny is plural – I doubt very much if the singular blin is much used!
Bliny are best cooked on a griddle or a cast iron frying pan.
Bliny are small risen pancakes made using yeast they are in the American style of pancake.
Bliny can be served warm or cold – I much prefer them warm!
80g plain flour
80g buckwheat flour
125 ml warm milk (full or semi-skimmed)
125 ml warm water
25g fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dried yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of melted butter
Pinch of salt
Put the yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl and leave to rise. (You can place this over bowl of warm water).
In a large bowl mix the flours together and add yeast mixture and then the beaten egg.
Add the water bit by bit until the mixture is like pouring cream, you might not need it all.
Add the pinch of salt and the melted butter then cover with a cloth and leave to rise.
Use the risen batter to make small pancakes by using 1 large tablespoon per pancake – I make 3 or 4 at a time in my lightly greased cast iron pan.
Once you get the pan hot, lower the heat to a steady low so as not to burn the bliny.
Once they are cooked on one side, turn then over using a spatula and cook for a few minutes more.
Serve the bliny with any of the following: melted butter, soured cream, twaróg, yoghurt cheese or cream cheese, smoked salmon, pickled herrings or even caviar, gherkins, fried onions, skwarki (crispy bacon bits) fried mushrooms and one of my favourites a fried egg.
These are thin pancakes and are also very popular in Northern France where they are called gallettes de sarrasin.
The French for buckwheat is sarrasin or blé noir.
Many years ago whilst on holiday in France I bought and brought home a very large French pancake pan.
However on my gas stove it is too large for a good distribution of heat – you get a hot spot in the centre which tends to burn that part – so I use my smaller pancake pan.
Last week whilst in a department store in Leeds I saw the following – An Electric Crêpe Pan – It might be good.
75g buckwheat flour
25g plain flour
120ml of milk (full or semi-skimmed)
120ml of water
25g of melted butter
pinch of salt
Some extra milk might be needed.
Make these in the same way as standard pancakes adding the melted butter after the batter has been standing for about an hour.
I think these pancakes are best with savoury fillings and my favourite is in fact French in origin, Breton style with a slice of good ham, grated Gruyère cheese and a soft fried egg.
The fillings are put on the cooked pancake and the sides are folded over but with the filling still showing in the centre. (You can put this back on the pan to heat it a little more.)
These mini buckwheat pancakes are Dutch in origin and it was only as I was trying out the recipes again that I realised how similar they are to bliny – but these are not served with savoury toppings but with icing sugar.
(The Dutch for buckwheat is boekweit)
Several decades ago when on a visit to The Netherlands I bought a special cast iron pan which is used for making poffertjes .
It was in the days before cheap flights & just hand luggage and I had travelled there by car – not as easy to bring home without.
If you do not have access to the authentic pan you can make them on a frying pan – my cast iron pan works very well.
10g dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
125g buckwheat flour
125 plain flour
Pinch of salt
350ml of full fat or semi-skimmed milk – warmed slightly
1 tablespoon of butter – melted
Icing sugar to serve.
In a small bowl or jug dissolve the sugar, the yeast and around 50 ml of the milk.
Leave for around 10 minutes or so as it froths up.
In a separate bowl, combine the buckwheat and wheat flours, salt, egg, yeast mixture and half the remaining milk and mix well.
Now add the remaining milk until the mixture is like double cream – you might not need all the milk.
Add the melted butter.
Cover the bowl and leave for around 1 hour until the mixture has bubbled and risen.
Lightly grease the pan and heat the pan – keep it the pan warm but not too hot or you will burn the poffertjes.
Using a teaspoon fill each indentation in the pan – you need around 2 teaspoons for each.
Turn the poffertjes around as soon as the bottom has set, using two forks.
Dredge the poffertjes with lots of icing sugar.
One of my friends who now lives in Canada brought me a large bottle of maple syrup on her last visit and I tried this over the poffertjes instead of the icing sugar – they were delicious.