© Olivier Marie
Buckwheat, Brittany’s black gold A superfood cereal is back in favour

Buckwheat

Whether in the form of seeds or as flour, buckwheat has just about everything going for it! It’s gluten-free, rich in vegetable protein, fibre and anti-oxidants, and is highly nutritious. Here’s a quick guide to this miraculous cereal that is one of Brittany’s iconic flavours.

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All about buckwheat

What is buckwheat?

Buckwheat (known in French as sarrasin or blé noir) is a flowering plant native to north-eastern Asia. Its cultivation was relaunched in Brittany towards the end of the 1980s. Since 2010, buckwheat flour has had its own PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).

 

 

Where can I find it?

Feel free to visit one of the many mills throughout Brittany that offer guided tours, such as the Moulin de Bertaud in Bain-de-Bretagne or the Moulin de La Falaise in Batz-sur-Mer.

How can I try it?

Buckwheat is most often turned into a flour used to make buckwheat pancakes (‘galettes’) but it can also be used to make a variety of sweet and savoury products.

Classic products

Out-of-the-ordinary recipes

  • Bordier refines its famous butter with the powerful taste of roast buckwheat and this gives it a surprisingly pleasant crunchy texture.
  • When it’s time for appetizers, Crousty Breizh, Krips and Celti Croc suggest replacing traditional potato crisps with handmade buckwheat crisps.
  • Buckwheat can also be added to salt and is one of the ingredients of the condiment gomasio: nigella, Indian coriander and Guérande sea salt in the version made by Olivier Roellinger and kasha, organic sesame seeds and wild wakame seaweed at Alg’Emeraude.
  • Kasha (roast buckwheat seeds), made by Manon Elbé in Morbihan, is a product with a natural nutty taste that goes very well with yoghurts and salads.
  • For those who have a sweet tooth, buckwheat goes perfectly with chocolate. This idea came from Eric Jubin, the inspired confectionery and chocolate maker who founded the Chocolaterie de Pont-Aven in 2003.
  • Still hungry? Mademoiselle Breizh offers a whole range of buckwheat-based products, including a delicious granola.

How about a drink? Can you drink buckwheat?

Although you’ll mainly find it on your plate, buckwheat can also be enjoyed in the form of a hot or cold drink.

  • For example, you can drink it at teatime, in Baronny’s ‘Pays de la Roche aux Fées’ bush tea (a mixture of almond, cocoa, caramel and roast buckwheat) or in Lindfield’s Gwenn Ha Du Breton tea, based on buckwheat, caramel, apple and hawthorn.
  • The drink called sobacha comes from the Japanese word ‘soba’, meaning buckwheat, and ‘cha’, which is of course tea. It’s a much less well-known drink but it tastes just as good. In Morbihan, Krazan makes an infusion of buckwheat seeds that can be drunk at any time of day.
  • Lancelot et Britt brew two beers based on buckwheat: Telenn Du and Gwiniz Du, which have a distinctive taste.
  • Did you know that Eddu, the only whisky in the world obtained solely from buckwheat, is made in the heart of Brittany at the Menhirs Distillery?

Buckwheat and fine dining 

We could go on forever about Breton chefs and buckwheat!

  • At the Auberge des Glazicks, Olivier Bellin is revisiting the kig ha farz, a dish that is typical of the Finistère region, involving lobster, black pudding, pineapple, Iberian ham and buckwheat dumplings.
  • At the Breizh Café, Brittany and Japan get together on a plate. From Saint-Malo to Cancale via Paris and Tokyo, Bertrand Larcher puts a new spin on the galette, in a contemporary version of the buckwheat pancake.
  • The quality label ‘Crêperies gourmandes’ lists Brittany’s best crêperies and guarantees the quality of the products, service and skill of the chefs.

Where can I buy it?

In Saint-Malo, in the Rue de l’Orme, the owner of the Breizh Café has set up the Maison du Sarrasin (Buckwheat Centre), completely devoted to buckwheat and offering caramels, biscuits, flours, butters, pasta… all involving buckwheat, naturally!


Health and well-being

Buckwheat isn’t just good for your health; it’s a beauty product too.

  • It forms an important part of certain treatments. The Spa du Val André, for example, offers body scrubs based on buckwheat flour and wraps using shea butter and buckwheat flour.
  • Certain brands of Breton craft cosmetics also offer products based on buckwheat: exfoliating soap and face masks (Ma Kibell), and moisturising oil based on buckwheat, sesame and samphire (Nominoë).

Where can you learn to make buckwheat pancakes?

From October 2018 onwards, crêpes have their own dedicated temple on the Quai Duguay-Trouin in Saint-Malo: the Atelier de la Crêpe, a 600 sq.m. crêpe workshop. Come and learn how to use traditional crêpe-making tools on the griddle (called a ‘bilig’) using age-old techniques. In this very different kind of workshop, set up by Bertrand Larcher, founder of the Breizh Café, you’ll learn everything there is to know about crêpes and ‘galettes’ (savoury buckwheat pancakes). Individual lessons and cookery demonstrations are on offer to the general public, as well as training for professionals, all year round. There’s also a teaching restaurant that seats up to 80 people and a shop selling local produce, so you have plenty of good reasons to come along and enjoy yourself.

Did you know ?

The sausage pancake: an institution in Upper Brittany

A pure pork, handmade sausage, grilled and then rolled in a buckwheat pancake: that’s the ‘galette-saucisse’ or sausage pancake, a super-simple form of street food that’s very popular in Upper Brittany. No offense to purists, but it’s also sometimes served with onions or a dab of mustard. There’s no point looking for the galette-saucisse on a crêperie’s menu, they are meant to be eaten from your hand – at the market, for example, or at a festival, football match or other outdoor event.

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