When we used to eat out more often, Risotto was one of those dishes that my husband jumped at ordering if he saw it on a menu. It was always made with butter, cheese and sometimes a cream or milk that put this dish on the “do not eat” list for someone like me with dairy allergies. When we first starting dating I thought he ordered this because he didn’t want to share his food, which was fine because to me it was just a bowl of rice sometimes topped with a seafood or meat. It didn’t entice or appeal to me much but I’d be a little curious when I watched his reaction to this dish. For the good risottos, his reaction reminded me of an Italian operatic “AHHHHHH AHHHHH”!! Pure delight, satisfaction and culinary bliss. He would rave about the risotto and savored it with his wine. Was it really that good? What makes this rice dish so amazing? We tried a few times to make a vegan version at home but I was never blown away by it nor could I make a meal of our it. Rob reported that without the cheese or creaminess, a vegan risotto didn’t taste as rich as a traditional risotto. I even tried making risotto with a few different grains and vegetable combos but I couldn’t get it right. This bugged me but with young twins a foot I let it go and put risotto back on the “eat only at restaurants” list and forgot about it for years. Then this winter I was making a cream of mushroom soup but was low on almond milk so I used canned coconut milk instead. Wow did this change things! The creaminess of the coconut milk took the soup up a notch and boy did it go incredibly well with mushrooms. I went on to successfully re-create several mushroom dishes (creamy mushroom stew, wild mushroom pasta sauce, etc.) using this new winning combination. I knew I had to give my old brown rice mushroom risotto recipe another shot but this time with a few key changes.
This spring I have seen a lot of farro recipes, all of which have made me drool and wanting to re-create, but farro (an Italian term for wheat) is not gluten-free so off the menu for those with celiac and non-celiac sensitivity. I wanted to do my risotto with an alternant gluten-free rice-like grain and thought why not buckwheat? Buckwheat is a protein rich seed, not related to wheat at all, but is the seed of a flowering fruit related to sorrel and rhubarb. It is very high in nutrients and fiber. It’s groats have a nutty taste often used as substitutions for rice or wheat in both sweet or savory dishes. Had to give it a shot! The results…well you’ll have to give it a try, but I will say WOW!!! I found it tasted incredibly divine, decadent, rich and creamy. The husband even agree this version of risotto was up there with his restaurant favorites. Risotto is now on the “Sarah must prepare often” list. I get it now, a good risotto is worth the operatic “AHHH AHHHH AHHHH”!!
Served below with some basic kale chips, chopped yellow pepper and mustardy shaved brussels sprouts (recipe coming soon).
Vegan Buckwheat Coconut Risotto
Like many of my recipes there are lots of variations you can do with this. Please leave comments let me know what you have tried and what worked well or changes you made. I love mushrooms so I tend to add a good amount to these and usually use button mushrooms but do what you like or do a combination. I prefer these days to pre-soak my seeds to maximize their nutrient assimilation but if you don’t have time try getting some already sprouted buckwheat that many health food stores have started carrying. Or soak the buckwheat in water with a pinch of sea salt or an inch of kombu overnight.
⅓ cup dried shiitake mushrooms
½ cup hot water
2 tbsp coconut oil
½ red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup raw buckwheat groats, rinsed
2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced
⅓ cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
1 heaping cup kale, destemmed & finely chopped
⅓ cup coconut milk
Pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside and let sit for a few minutes while you prep the vegetables.
- In a large saucepan or pot heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic to the hot oil and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent, careful not to burn the garlic.
- Stir in the rinsed buckwheat groats mixing it in with the onions and garlic and lightly toasting the groats.
- Pour in about half a cup of the broth over the buckwheat gently stirring until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Drain the shiitake mushrooms, slice (if not pre-sliced) and add these along with the other mushrooms and sundried tomatoes to the pot. Stir in another half cup of broth again gently stirring until everything is mixed and the liquid has been absorbed. Continue the process until you are left with the last half cup of broth.
- Stir in the kale, the remaining broth and coconut milk. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Continue stirring for only a few more minutes while the last bit of liquid is absorbed and the risotto gets thick and creamy.
Enjoy as a side or meal on its own. This dish also serves well cold as left-overs.
Yields about 4 side servings or 2-3 main dishes.