You would probably be hard-pressed to find a Soviet-era child who did not grow up eating some type of kasha on a regular basis for breakfast. Kasha is a Russian word for porridge. Now there’s a food you don’t come across every day in the US!! I think last time I even came across the word porridge, it may have been in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” In Russia, kasha was made out of many types of grains. Manna (wheat semolina) was probably the most popular. I also remember kasha made with rice or buckwheat. What makes a grain into kasha is basically the process of cooking in water or milk, with some sugar or honey, into a gooey texture.
Kasha was often fed to small children, because of its soft texture, and of course, the nutritional qualities of whole grain and milk. Manna was always my favorite. Its closest cousin in the US is probably cream of wheat, although I have never tried it. “Manna” is the Russian word for wheat semolina and it is very popular and prized both for its filling and nutritional properties – the name is quite possibly derived from the Christian tale of “Manna from the heaven,” which saved people from starvation. Manna kasha is also very soothing for an upset stomach, coating your stomach lining and preventing further irritation.
I was recently perusing the shelves of my local Russian deli with my grandmother, and saw a package of manna grain.
All of a sudden, I had a flash back to breakfast served by Mom – Manna kasha, warm and sweet, with a side of soft-boiled egg. I knew what I was going to be having for breakfast the next day! Except, instead of having my hardboiled egg on the side, I just sliced it right into my bowl. The kasha is a little sweet, the egg is a little salty, and of course a healthy hunk of melting butter right in the middle is an absolute must!!
And aren’t these the most beautiful bright yellow egg yolks? They made it into my plate courtesy of good friend Bill, who was kind enough to bring me some fresh eggs from his farm. One of his chickens is named Natasha – how very à propos! They were as pretty as they were delicious. Is there anything better than farm-fresh food?
To make Manna Kasha you just need a 1 to 5 ratio of grain to water/milk (depending on your preference). Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the grain in a slow stream, all the while stirring well. Continue to stir for a few minutes until the kasha starts to bubble or the desired consistency is reached. Add salt and sugar or honey to taste. Don’t forget the generous helping of butter in the middle!!