Twice as Tasty

Russian Kasha (Multigrain Hot Cereal Mix)

A multigrain hot cereal mix does more than cook into a warming, filling breakfast; it can replace plain rolled oats in many recipes

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

If you think you don’t need a recipe to make hot cereal, you may be right. If you also don’t keep a large container of premixed cereal grains in your kitchen, this week’s recipe maybe just the inspiration you need to quickly create a versatile pantry staple.

Multigrain hot cereal mix has become a prepackaged standard, but when I was growing up, hot cereal meant plain rolled oats. It tasted bland, no matter how much brown sugar I stirred in. It wasn’t until I tasted a multigrain blend in Russia that I happily ate this warming, filling breakfast on a subzero morning.

In English, “kasha” typically refers to just one grain – buckwheat. In Russian, the same pronunciation refers to any mixed-grain hot cereal, typically toasted in a little butter before adding the liquid to bring out every hint of natural flavor.

A multigrain mix can change hot cereal from boring to desirable, hence the array of prettily packaged yet expensive three- to 12-grain mixes lined up on grocery store shelves. By dipping into bulk bins of the individual grains instead, you can mix your own blend for a fraction of the cost and to your tastes.

The combination I give here contains a few readily available grains. Some cook faster than others, but that just improves the complexity of textures in the mix. You can add other grains or make a gluten-free blend of certified gluten-free rolled oats, buckwheat flakes and rice flakes. If you use other grains, aim for softening the longest-cooking grain when simmering the blend, checking occasionally to find the time that produces your preferred texture.

Once you create your favorite blend, mix up several pounds at a time and dip into it whenever a recipe calls for rolled oats or another flaky grain. I use this grain mix as the base for homemade granola. It’s also my preferred topping for quick breads, coffee cake, Rhubarb-Apple Crisp and other crunchy garnishes. If the longest-cooking grain in your mix is regular rolled oats, you can even use it in oatmeal cookies.

Russian Kasha (Multigrain Hot Cereal Mix)

Serves 4

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup rye flakes

1/2 cup thick-cut rolled oats

1/4 cup barley flakes

1/4 cup rolled wheat

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or sweet spice mix

2 tablespoons honey or other sweetener to taste

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirling the pan to coat the bottom. Stir in the rye, oats, barley and wheat, toasting them in the butter for about a minute. Pour in the milk and water; sprinkle in the salt and cinnamon or other spices.

Bring the grains to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the flakes are tender. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Divide into bowls; stir 1/2 tablespoon of honey into each bowl or sweeten to taste.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.