Buckwheat and me, we got a long history. Around 15 years ago when living in Melbourne, I tried my hand at making a buckwheat sourdough starter. (Yeah – that one still needs a bit of work.) Then, while living in Japan, apart from rice, buckwheat was the one grain that I could quite easily get hold of. One of my students had buckwheat growing in the paddocks around her house, so Daz and I went a’pickin’. We hung the bundles of buckwheat outside the back door on a bamboo rafter. It was very picturesque and rural in a non-useful kinda way. I had every intention of hulling and grinding the seeds on my traditional stone “usu”, but… I never got around to it. Buckwheat is often grown in Japan as a rotational crop for fallow rice paddies. The husks are used to fill pillows and the seeds are used for primarily for soba noodles. I also attended a soba making workshop, which was the bees’ knees. Set in a traditional Japanese kitchen, we ground the buckwheat by hand and learned how to encourage the buckwheat flour and water to bind to form a dough.
Since Japan, I’ve played with buckwheat on and off, but recently I’ve sunk my energies into playing with Bonza Buckwheat again. The bread that we’ve been making since Easter is a 65% buckwheat bread – and it’s delish! Plus, a couple of weeks ago, we had the Buckwheat cooking workshop at Birdseed, and so for this, I brushed up on some of my buckwheat recipes and insights to share. It reminded me how much I love this earthy little grain. This little powerhouse of nutrition.
So when Little Miss asked for pasta for dinner on Sunday, I thought – “well giddy up! I’ve got some freshly ground buckwheat, I’ve got eggs. Let’s do this thing!” Now I have made pasta before – with spelt and freshly ground wheat flour – many, many, ooooo, many moons ago. And I’ve made GF gnocchi before. But never pasta-pasta. But I’ve made soba noodles a few times – so how hard can this be?
Now, my kitchen is a tinee-tiny space (think walk-in wardrobe here, and NOT the one that Big had built for SJP in the “Sex in the City” movie!). So, I decided to use my soba mixing bowl to mix the pasta in (hoping that I’d keep the mess to a minimum – HA! Fat chance!) In went the buckwheat flour and glutinous rice flour into the bowl with some salt. No xanthan gum, no guar gum, no psyllium husk, no flax seeds, no chia seeds, no CMC or HPMC or fruit pectin. You really don’t need any of that stuff when you’re using eggs. Keep it simple, folks!
Pop the eggs into the middle of the flour and mix, mix, mix, gloopy, lumpy mess. It looks like it’s never going to come together. But it does and the dough is lovely. Soft and smooth with the right amount of give. It’s so lovely that I spend longer than necessary kneading the dough. It is reminds me so much of my bread making days – which I do miss, I must be honest. *sigh*
But I didn’t want to dry it out, so I wrap it in plastic and put it aside to rest. Yes, yes, I know. There is no gluten, so you really don’t need to let it rest. BUT – all grains/seeds have a protein content. And I learned in my soba making class back in Japan, that you should add water really gradually to the flour. This encourages the buckwheat to bind to the water, develop bonds and some stretch. I also think that when combining any flour with water or oil or eggs, a little resting time to let them get to know each other is a good thing.
I set up the pasta machine. Now I don’t know how many of you have used a hand-cranked pasta machine, but I can tell you two things – it ain’t easy and you can’t do it alone. This a case of: “Kids – can you come and give me a hand!” (Notice the glass of wine strategically placed in the photo? Had a feeling that I was gunna need a swig or two to get me through this pasta machine bit!) I divide the pasta into four bits and the first roll is nice. Very noice! I’m feeling good and forge on and make some fettuccine. Awww – fantastico! Successive rolls aren’t so successful. But I think barking orders at the kids, not flouring the surfaces enough and probably too much wine meant that half the pasta dough is turned into fettuccine and half is a pile of floury bits of squished dough. But I was happy and the kids were hungry – so I decided to cook the pasta off and get dinner on the table and deal with the left-over bits later.
I had a pot of water on the boil (yes, I know – I’m so orjanized!) Look at that beautiful buckwheat pasta falling into the pot. OMG! It’s a thing of beauty! I was feeling pretty excited by this stage. This might really work! It wasn’t falling apart…. Pull a piece out and get my expert pasta-eater (Abi) to do the al dente test.
I get the nod. It really didn’t take long to cook. I didn’t time it, but I reckon just a couple of minutes.
Now here’s the cheat bit. I didn’t make the pasta sauce. Nah. I just grabbed one at the supermarket and chugged it over the top of the hot pasta. Hey! I made the pasta! And within a few minutes, the kids and Daz were mouths full of al dente buckwheat pasta and giving me a big pasta thumbs up! Yippee! Winner, winner! Pasta grinner! 😉
“But what did you do with the remaining pasta dough?” I hear you ask. Thanks for asking. I didn’t throw it out. No way! All will be reveal in my next blog. Recipe for the pasta is below. Happy pasta-ering! And tweet peeps!!
Birdseed Buckwheat Pasta
2½ cups freshly ground buckwheat flour (trust me – freshly ground is the ONLY way to go)
½ cup glutinous rice flour (I use Erawan’s Brand – you can buy it at Woolies or Coles. It’s the one with the green writing
PLUS: ½ to ¾ cup of the buckwheat/glutinous flour blend for flouring the dough
½ tsp salt
4 – 5 eggs (depending on the size of your eggs)
Big pot of salted boiling water with a good splash of olive oil
Mix the buckwheat flour, glutinous rice flour and salt together. Make a well in the middle of flours and add the eggs. Pulling the flour into the eggs, work it together until it forms a smooth and not too sticky dough. If it’s a bit sticky, sprinkle with a little flour. If it’s a bit dry, you might need to add a little more egg. Give it a lovely knead and shape into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap or a damp cloth and set aside while you set up the pasta machine. Now you DON’T have to use a pasta machine, and in some ways it’s easier if you don’t. You can easily roll out the pasta on a plastic pastry sheet or plastic wrap. Try to get it pretty thin. Once it’s rolled out – this is where you need to take charge. There are probably a gazillion different ways to cut, shape, roll pasta. The choice is yours. You will need flour the cut dough to stop the cut pasta from sticking together.
Make sure your water is at a rolling boil before you drop the pasta in. Usually fresh pasta doesn’t take very long to reach al dente – a few minutes at most. But if your pasta is quite thick or you’ve folded the pasta to join seams – it might take a little longer. Taste testing is the best way to determine doneness.
Top with your favourite sauce and Buon Appetito!
10:26:21 PM 2014-06-10