Monday, March 28, 2011

Cooking Classes 1: Buckwheat

purple cabbage, lentil soup, yogurt soup (the extent of my turkish cooking)

Cinci loves my cooking. Do you see him in the background?

Some people can learn to cook from a book. Some take cooking classes. Some can watch a cooking show and duplicate the recipe perfectly. Some don't learn, they just experiment and have the knack. I am none of these. Sure, I can follow a recipe. But I rarely am satisfied with the results. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. That is why I love to have someone teach me individually. Not just write down the recipe for me and give me a few tips. I mean being right there and doing it in front of me while I ask questions and try doing some of it myself.

When I was in Turkey I had a neighbor who was an excellent cook. I should have taken all the instruction she would give me. The only thing I really learned to make was red lentil soup. From another friend I learned to make yogurt and rice soup. I've found a few blogs that give wonderful turkish recipes. I think they are great because the people who write the blogs are turkish. Who can really be an expert in cooking unless they've cooked and eaten something over and over and over in their lives? I kick myself for not taking advantage of my turkish friends and neighbors' cooking skills more often.

Now I'm in Qatar. Who are my neighbors? Well, during the day almost no one. But now my next door neighbor's sister has come to visit for three months from the Ukraine. Now's my chance to learn to make the infamous "buckwheat" and maybe some borsch.

Today I took my jar of dry buckwheat that my neighbor had given me long ago over to this sister of hers. She showed me how to make it.

  • Wash it.

  • Boil it in water with some salt.

  • It takes about 45 minutes. When I asked, "How long does it take? 10 minutes?" She said, "Maybe longer, 15 minutes maybe." Well, really it took 45.

  • When it's done you add butter and more salt if it needs it.

Ever since we moved to Qatar, our neighbor, Christian, who is 5, would never eat anything we offered him. "Well, what do you like to eat then?" we asked. "Buckwheat," was always his answer. Buckwheat for breakfast, buckwheat for lunch, even buckwheat for dinner if mom was in a bind. The other two menu items he happens to eat are borsch and chicken nuggets. (His father is American.) Isn't it sad that all we American's have to offer world cuisine is a measly chicken nugget? After talking to his mom we discovered the health benefits of buckwheat. Of course Ukranians are partial to their main staple. But really, it is! Ukraine comes in third place for production of such crop.

So for my first Ukranian cooking lesson, I'd say it was a success. Luba, my teacher, not only taught me how to make buckwheat porridge the "real" way, but sent me home with some honey straight from the Ukraine. Her husband is a beekeeper. The buckwheat porridge was savory and the texture was a lot like oatmeal. Something I love, and if I can get my hands on some in the States at a reasonable price, it will be on my breakfast menu once or twice a week.

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