Kasha is a type of a porridge made from hulled and crushed grains. In some parts of the world, it is made from buckwheat specifically, while in other nations it may include a mixture of grains. Grain porridges are a very ancient food, and they constituted an important part of the human diet for many earlier civilizations. Many modern humans enjoy kasha and similar porridges, especially at breakfast.
The word itself means “porridge” in Russian, and numerous Eastern European nations have variations on it, like Polish kasza, Ukrainian kawa, and Slovenian kaša. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans in these areas have been cultivating and eating grains for thousands of years, and porridges like kasha may have laid the groundwork for bread. Porridge certainly runs the gamut from boring gruel to interesting and filling main dish, and it leaves a great deal of room for experimentation by the cook.
Buckwheat kasha is made from toasted buckwheat groats. Groats are produced by hulling a grain and crushing it, but not grinding or cracking it into smaller particles. Buckwheat has a rich, nutty flavor that is brought out through toasting, and buckwheat kasha can be enjoyable plain, although it may also be mixed with milk, salt, sugar, or other ingredients. Depending on the ingredients it is blended with, it can be a sweet or savory dish, and it may be topped with fruit, vegetables, or even meats.
Other grains, including millet, rye, wheat, oats, or even rice, can be used to make kasha. These grains may be used plain, or eaten in a blend which mingles the best of the flavors from these grains. Since whole grains are used, the porridge is a great nutritional choice, rich in vitamins and minerals. Poor Eastern Europeans often consumed a diet with a lot of kasha in it for this very reason, since it supplied their basic nutritional needs. It is also sometimes used as a filling in traditional foods like knish.
Recipes for kasha vary, depending on the grains and flavorings used. Essentially, the grains are boiled with water or milk until they soften. Kasha may be liquid, in which case it is eaten like a creamy porridge, or it may be more viscous, almost like polenta. In other cases, it is made in a way that makes it light and crumbly. Heavy cookware is usually used, to prevent it burning while cooking.