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Vegan buckwheat ragu for a solo vegetarian

January 26, 2015

This is how to make a vegetarian or vegan ragu at the same time as you do the meaty one for the rest of your guest or family.

It isn’t about cooking up a huge batch of something vegetarian – you’ve got Ottolenghi Plenty, Malouf’s New Feast and River Cottage Veg as inspiration.  It’s not about feeding a mixed crowd of carnivores and vegetarians either; a huge dish of macaroni cheese, a roast chicken and some warm vegetable salads will take care of that. It’s about cooking, day in day out, for one vegetarian or when you have a single non-meat eating guest for supper.

There are two ways to approach this: either you make a vegetarian meal and everyone eats it or you make your veggie something else. My week is usually a combination of both, but when I’ve had a busy day it can be a stretch too far to make two meals when some are eating meat. This ragu is a compromise. By doubling up some of the stages it’s almost like cooking one dish – and by using similar ingredients you all eat the same sort of flavours. I’ve made many, many versions of this over the years usually with lentils as a base. The buckwheat is a new discovery and works really well – the protein element keeps me happy as a Mum to a vegetarian too. Putting Marmite in is something I thought of very recently as it gives the umami depth of savouriness that can be lacking; I’m wondering why on earth I’ve never done it before.

Vegan buckwheat ragu

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Olive oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • Onion, celery, carrot, garlic*
  • Tomato puree*
  • Red wine*
  • 100g buckwheat (in Dubai I bought Tesco brand at Choitrams)
  • 400 ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  a couple of parsley stalks
  • 1 whole dried chilli (optional)
  • dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce**
  • Half a teaspoon Marmite
  • Approx. 2 tablespoons tomato passata
  • Sea salt and black pepper

*The quantities are not given as you just increase the amount you are using for the main ragu.

** Traditional Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies but you can buy vegan alternatives or make your own.


1. Finely chop a generous amount of onion, celery, carrot and garlic for your main meaty ragu. For instance, if your non-vegetarian recipe calls for a medium onion you could use a large one instead. You just need to increase the quantities a little for the whole ‘soffritto‘. Heat the oil and butter together in the pot for the main ragu and sweat gently until the vegetables are soft but not coloured and the onions transparent. Add your tomato puree and cook for a few minutes, then add the red wine and leave to bubble down until reduced to almost nothing.

2. Take a generous tablespoon or two of the soffritto and put into a small saucepan (which has a lid) over a medium heat.  Add the buckwheat and stock, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the bay leaf, oregano, parsley, chilli, Worcestershire sauce and Marmite. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, checking halfway through that it is not drying out.

3. Stir in the tomato passata and cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Add more if the sauce needs loosening. Check that the buckwheat is cooked; it should be slightly firm to the bite. Add sea salt and pepper to taste, remove the parsley stalks and chilli and serve over pasta. You can use a variation of this for a vegetarian Shepherd’s pie too.

Intrigued by buckwheat? Try these vegetarian recipes:  buckwheat and chia seed chocolate chip cookies (Franglais Kitchen), spiced buckwheat and oat porridge (Fuss Free Flavours), buckwheat blini pancakes (Elizabeth’s Kitchen) and roasted buckwheat (kasha) with onions and mushrooms (Coffee and Vanilla).

Sir Bani Yas Island

A view across the lagoon in the dawn light to the Anantara resort I escaped to this weekend. Can’t wait to share more

How do you cope with a vegetarian guest or a solo vegetarian? If the scenario was the other way round, would you as a vegetarian cook meat for a meat eater? Would love to know.

  1. January 26, 2015 5:46 pm

    What a fabulous recipe Sally. We recently had a “veggie” as we lovingly call him friend to stay and this would have been perfect.
    Hope i haven’t missed out on too much while being away from the computer for a month.
    Have a wonderful and happy week ahead.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  2. January 26, 2015 6:03 pm

    A lovely dish. Buckwheat is so delicious and versatile.



  3. January 26, 2015 7:03 pm

    I’ve never eaten buckwheat but have been trying different grains so it is on my list. Thank you for a recipe to give it a try!

  4. January 26, 2015 7:14 pm

    What a great idea! I never really know what to do with buckwheat grains. I love the addition of marmite 🙂

  5. glamorous glutton permalink
    January 26, 2015 7:34 pm

    This looks very tasty for either a vegetarian or meat eater, it’s good to have a rest from meat from time to time. I have a very veggie friend, no using the same board, cutlery etc. But she cooks meat for her family although , as she points out , she can’t taste it and has no idea what it should be like as she became vegetarian at eight. What I love is that I can make a special dish for her, or she’s happy to eat just the veg if it’s something like a roast dinner. A very easy guest. GG

  6. January 26, 2015 8:15 pm

    I’m the veggie in the house and I cook meat for my boys every day 🙂 I’m the cook in the house and it doesn’t bother me to cook different meals xx

  7. January 26, 2015 8:22 pm

    I really don’t cook buckwheat enough. Thanks for the reminder! Sharing on Twitter 🙂

  8. January 26, 2015 9:56 pm

    I like the suggestion of using a little marmite for depth, I have been vegetarian for years and never tried it, but will now. Thanks Sally x

  9. January 26, 2015 11:52 pm

    test 🙂

  10. January 26, 2015 11:55 pm

    Love the recipe Sally, will definitely have to give it a go as I’m a bit tired of eating buckwheat the same way for the last 40 years 😉 And thank you for mentioning my Polish buckwheat recipe by the way.

  11. lcathrin permalink
    January 27, 2015 12:59 am

    Sounds awsome, have to try it! 😍

  12. January 27, 2015 8:49 am

    so yummy 🙂 tks for sharing recipe

  13. ramblingtart permalink
    January 27, 2015 10:58 am

    I’m not a vegetarian, but I do love vegetarian food. One of my dear friends is a vegetarian, and when she comes over I liked to do really interesting things with veggies to inspire and cheer her. She always looks forward to it. 🙂

  14. January 27, 2015 3:50 pm

    Marmite is definitely a chef’s trick and also adding soy sauce can do similar things to a dish. I am not sure I would eat buckwheat over meat but having said that I think your version would make a most welcome alternative for veggies. I dread my kids becoming veggie but I am sure it’ll happen at some stage!

  15. January 27, 2015 10:24 pm

    I’m not veggie though I do think this is good recipe idea for doing something different with buckwheat. Great tip about the marmite too, now you’ve mentioned it I can really see how it would work.

  16. January 28, 2015 12:17 am

    I follow this same principle when I am cooking and teaching on my cancer nutrition course. I apply this to special diets in general – low-fibre, gluten-free, low-protein, vegan, omnivore etc. Many people I see are wanting to change/having to change their diet their diet, but not wanting to force change on their families. It’s about sorting some basic recipes – like this simple but amazing sounding one – and being able to add on as required. I like the Marmite trick too 😉 I often add it to British-style dishes for just what you say – an umami hit. Liking all these links to buckwheat too.

  17. January 28, 2015 9:48 pm

    This is a lovely idea. As the only veggie in a family of omnivores, I sometimes serve up meat for the family and something else for me, but often we all eat veggie/vegan dishes together. This one is definitely going on the meal plan.

  18. January 29, 2015 2:21 am

    Solo vegetarian I can handle easily, but vegan I have much more trouble with. Vegans eat bread in our house (although we don’t discuss the yeast organisms being living creatures) and lentil curries. I’ll bookmark this one, thanks Sally, for when the need arises. It looks so delish that we might even try it before! 🙂

  19. January 29, 2015 2:30 am

    I’m obsessed with buckwheat…

  20. January 29, 2015 9:20 pm

    This sounds so simple & delicious! And great idea using Marmite! As a Kiwi I love Marmite 🙂

  21. February 2, 2015 2:24 am

    I love kale pesto, you’ve reminded me I haven’t made it for ages – I like the idea of a mix of walnuts & almonds too. And that lagoon plus Lebanese food sounds wonderful, look forward to hearing more about it.

  22. February 2, 2015 9:20 pm

    Lovely recipe. And I love those little Staub pots!


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