Saturday, August 10, 2013

Buckwheat, sweet potato, courgette and cashew croquettes with roasted beetroot and onion sauce

Here is a gluten-free plant-based recipe for some savoury croquettes. These are versatile and easy to make. They can be served as a grain dish alongside other dishes as part of a main meal or eaten on their own with a green salad for a light lunch.

You may be thinking "what on earth is buckwheat?"

Despite its name, buckwheat is not botanically related to wheat at all.

This is excellent news if you are on a gluten-free diet.

Buckwheat is a broad-leaf plant, not a grass like wheat.

The term 'buckwheat' refers to plants in two genera of the family Polygonaceae: the Eurasian genus Fagopyrum, and the North American genus Eriogonum. Rhubarb is also a member of this plant family.

The crop plant, common buckwheat, is Fagopyrum esculentum.

Tartary buckwheat (F. tataricum Gaertn.) or "bitter buckwheat" is also used as a crop, but is much less common.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)

Common buckwheat was domesticated and first cultivated in southeast Asia, possibly around 6000 BC, and from there spread to Europe and to Central Asia and Tibet.  It was cultivated in Europe in the Balkans around 4000 BC.

In Central and Eastern Europe, kasha - cooked buckwheat - is eaten as porridge, used in pilav or for stuffing traditional Jewish snacks called knish.

Buckwheat grain

Buckwheat is either eaten whole or ground into flour to be used in breads, pancakes or thin noodles (soba).

It can be purchased raw to be lightly dry-roasted at home before cooking and generally combines well with vegetables.

In recent years, buckwheat has been used as a substitute for other grain in gluten free beer.

Nutrients and health benefits of buckwheat

Buckwheat contains about 75% carbohydrate, 18% protein and is rich in iron, zinc and selenium.

Its protein contains all of the essential amino acids except lysine, so its protein value is over 90%.

It also contains significant quantities of anti-oxidants.

One of these is called rutin, a phytochemical with interesting biological activities.

Conventionally, rutin is used as an antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiallergic agent. However, current research suggests potential benefits for the treatment of various chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

Rutin is said to strengthen capillary walls, reducing haemorrhaging in people with high blood pressure; reduce blood pressurelower blood lipidsprevent damage from alcohol-induced inflammation in the liver; and increase circulation to the hands and feet.


Makes about 10 croquettes



1 cup buckwheat grain (washed)
2 cups boiling water from kettle
1/2 medium onion (finely chopped)
1/2 small sweet potato (grated)
1/4 medium courgette (zucchini), grated
1 small handful cashews (finely chopped)
1/2 strip wakame sea vegetable (soaked for 10 minutes and finely chopped) 


4 small beetroot or 2 medium beetroot (washed and scrubbed)
2 medium carrots (peeled)
1 medium onion (unpeeled)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp white miso



  1. Pre-heat oven to 190 C, wrap beetroot, carrot and whole onion in foil and bake for 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, prepare the croquettes as shown below.
  3. Allow beetroot, carrots and onion to cool, remove skins from cooked beetroot and onion. Cut cooked beetroot, carrot and onion into pieces, put all in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add water to achieve the desired consistency for a sauce. Add ume seasoning, apple juice concentrate and white miso to taste.


  1. Place buckwheat in a thick pan, add hot water, put the lid on and bring to the boil. When boiling, turn heat down low and simmer with the lid on for 20-30 minutes, until the buckwheat is soft and cooked. There should be no water left in the pan.
  2. While the buckwheat is cooking, saute the onion, grated sweet potato, grated courgette (zucchini) and spices until vegetables are soft and the onion translucent. Add chopped cashews and wakame.
  3. Mix vegetables with buckwheat, mould into round balls and flatten gently. If you use too many vegetables in proportion to buckwheat, the mixture will become too moist and the croquettes won't stick together. 
  4. Place on a greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes or until croquettes are golden brown.
  5. Serve with beetroot and onion sauce and a salad garnish.


Like rice and other grains, buckwheat provides a neutral base to which almost any combination of seasonal vegetables, vegetarian proteins, herbs and spices can be added. 

You can also use a variation of this recipe to make buckwheat pilav. Use 1/2 cup buckwheat cooked in 1 cup water to the same quantity of vegetables listed above. Instead of forming into patties, just mix grain and vegetables together and serve with a garnish.

Buckwheat pilav

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