For some of you, the thought of buckwheat and mushroom cabbage rolls will be a new idea. This meat-free version is well known in Poland. It’s a Wigilia staple. It could be a Lenten supper, It’s plant-based and perfect for lighter springtime meals!
That’s what I’m making these today. I’m trying to include more meat-free dishes in my diet, but if you know me, you know that nutritional tweaks still have to involve great flavor.
So let’s touch briefly on buckwheat. What is it, and should we be adding it to our diet?
- Buckwheat is a pseudocereal like quinoa. That means buckwheat is a seed, but it grows on a leafy plant, not a grass-like plant such as wheat or rice.
- You make have heard of buckwheat flour, but today, I’m using buckwheat groats, the hulled seed.
- Even though the name contains the word wheat, it isn’t wheat and it is gluten-free.
- Buckwheat, rich in fiber and minerals, contains more protein than rice or quinoa.
- Buckwheat is grown in much of the northern hemisphere including Poland where it has been harvested since the 14th century. If you think about it, adding buckwheat to cabbage rolls is probably more traditional than using rice which is not grown in Poland.
- The experts at Food and Wine have this to say about flavor when paring buckwheat: Buckwheat’s earthy . . . taste means it pairs well with rich foods like wild mushrooms, winter fruit, and tangy cheese.
Let’s go with buckwheat and wild mushrooms from the forest. It seems like every family in Poland has not only a mushroom expert but also a secret spot, the place they’ve been going for years, where they know an autumn rain is sure to produce a nice crop of wild mushroons.
Drying mushrooms allows the foragers to keep and use their bounty until the next harvest, unlike fresh mushrooms which have a short shelf-life. The mushrooms when they’re reconstituted contain less water than fresh, so the flavor is more concentrated.
So let’s marry these two flavors in our buckwheat and mushroom cabbage rolls.
I’m using savoy cabbage today. I find it easier to work with than white (or green) cabbage. The leaves are less compacted and easier to separate with just a little hot water. Its appearance is also pleasing. There’s such an interesting pattern to the leaves.
You might serve your cabbage rolls with any variety of mushroom or tomato sauces. I know you’ll enjoy them.
A vegetarian cabbage roll, traditional for Wigilia, a Lenten supper, or a light spring meal!
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Add the dried mushrooms and boiling water to a bowl. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to reconstitute the mushrooms. You can put another bowl or small plate on top of the mushrooms to keep them submerged.
- While the mushrooms rehydrate, cut the core out of the cabbage. Run hot water into the core space to help separate the leaves. Remove the leaves until they get to be too small to roll. Trim the large center vein on the back of the larger leaves. This will make them easier to roll and make sure the leaves cook more uniformly. Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer. Submerge the leaves and cook until they’re soft and tender so they will roll easily. Remove and set aside.
- Add the onion and butter to a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook until softened. While the onion is cooking, drain and chop the mushrooms (you can save the mushroom water to make a sauce or to add to a soup). Add the chopped mushrooms and the cooked buckwheat groats to the onion, season with salt and pepper. When the mixture is cool enough not to cook your egg, add and mix until uniformly combined.
- Spread out a cabbage leaf. Near the core end of the leaf add the 2-4 tablespoons of buckwheat and mushroom filling depending on the size of the leaf. Shape the filling into a log-like shape. Fold in the sides of the leaf and roll it up as if you were making a burrito.
- Place the cabbage rolls in your baking dish with the edges touching. Add a few tablespoons of water or vegetable broth. Cover with foil. Bake for an hour. Top with your favorite mushroom or tomato sauce.
Note: some people like to freeze the cabbage overnight. When the cabbage thaws, the leaves peel off easily and are soft enough to roll. The texture is a little different, but it is so easy!
Keywords: buckwheat and mushroom cabbage roll
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.