Kig Ha Farz: Breton buckwheat dumpling recipe

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Kig Ha Farz is a homely, but absolutely delicious, Breton specialty that few French people even know about. It’s highly-unlikely that you’ll ever find it served in a restaurant although I’ve heard reports of one Breton crêperie near Montmarte which makes it one day a week, but I haven’t investigated further. But if you travel through Brittany, some old-fashioned stores sell the simple sacks which are used to cook the kig ha farz, which means ‘meat’ and ‘stuffing’ in the Breton language, and you can make it yourself at home, like I do.

When we rented a house by the north coast of France last summer, the retired owners who lived next door offered to make us a stack of galettes au sarrasin, the buckwheat crêpes the region is well-known for, as a nice welcoming gesture.


Curiously, if they’re made with buckwheat, they’re not called ‘crêpes’, which is why if you go to a French crêperie and ask for buckwheat crêpes, they might not know what you’re talking about. I might suggest they change to name to galetterie, but that doesn’t quite have the same appeal, for some reason.

Instead, we asked if they’d make us kig ha farz, which really surprised them and they told us we were the first people to ever ask for it. But they were more than happy to comply!

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It’s said the tradition of simmering the crumbly, dumpling-like mixture was done using the sleeve of an old men’s shirt. So if you have one lying around that you don’t mind ripping the sleeve off of, you might want to give it a try. If so, I would use one made of natural cotton, preferably undyed.

Kig ha farz is probably one of the most unusual things that’ll ever come out of your kitchen and I like to surprise friends by serving them this very unusual but versatile side dish. But once you pour your first batch from the cotton sack, you’ll find it’s simply delicious and easy enough to do over and over again, especially if you love the hearty taste of earthy buckwheat.

Although kig ha farz is normally simmered in the meaty broth when you’re cooking up big hunks of lard, fatty strips of belly bacon along with boiled vegetables, I simply cook mine in water with a bouquet garni: a bunch of fresh thyme and bay leaves tied together.

Because I ingest ample fat from chocolate, ice cream and the big jar of foie gras that I opened last week, I served my kig ha farz the other night with a lean pork loin which I cured myself in a brine of cassonade sugar and allspice. I then pushed slivers of garlic deep into the meat then rubbed it all over with lots of freshly-chopped thyme and sea salt. The loin got oven-roasted with lots of minced shallots and a few centimeters of fruity Breton apple cider in the pan. And it was fantastic.

Alongside were sweet potatoes that I caramelized separately in the oven with crispy lardons of bacon. The French don’t normally eat sweet potatoes, not as much as their American counterparts, and they’re always curious when I bring them to the table. So I like to serve them as much as I can and watch how they take to them when they actually do try them.

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Traditional serving of kig ha farz

Kig Ha Farz
Six servings

Many Breton women were happy to share their recipes with me, often scratched on pieces of worn paper with rather sketchy instruction, sometimes in a mix of French and Breton. But when I got home, I had a bit of difficulty reproducing them. Those darn French housewives and their astuces! So I use this recipe, an adaptation from one of my favorite books on French cooking: The French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Loomis.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (125 ml) whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons (60 gr) melted butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 1 3/4 cups (250 gr) buckwheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Mix together the eggs, milk, and butter in a large bowl.

2. Gradually add the flour, sugar and salt, stirring until smooth.

3. I drop the mixture into my farz bag, a sack made of unbleached muslin specifically for this purpose. I tie it closed, leaving room for it to expand by about one-third.

If you don’t have a sack, Susan recommends placing the mixture in the center of a clean, damp piece of cotton cloth about 2-feet square (60 cm). Gather the corners of the cloth and secure them tightly with kitchen string, leaving room for the mixture to expand by one-third.

4. Simmer the farz in simmering broth for about 2 hours.

5. Drain the sack in the colander very well for 15 minutes. Then take the sack and roll it on the countertop, pressing it firmly back-and-forth, until you can feel it’s broken into little tiny bits inside. Don’t worry about any tough or large pieces. Those are my favorites!

Open the sack and pour the kig ha farz onto a platter or serving dish. Serve hot with boiled meats, vegetables, or simply a pat of salted butter. Some like it drizzled with maple syrup as well.

(For more about kig ha farz, read a previous post.)


17 comments

  • At last! News I can use.
    My father’s family were originally Breton and we had a bag-o’goodies cooked in our pot au feu. It wasn’t this, which I can make since I have a sack-o-buckwheat flour in the freezer. It was really really good though and when I recently made it for lunch guests it disappeared like sparks up the chimney. My favorite part was slices of rolled veal belly filled with herbs and sel gris and the stuff cooked in the cheesecloth sack. Which is how we cooked it. So send me a shirt, please. If Kevin even had one, I don’t own a pole long enough to touch it.
    Britney

  • David,
    I make a really buckwheat scallop crepe you might like.

  • The thought of the marshmallows make some Americans ill too…

  • If you were trying for a googlewhack it was a good try but I got about 100 links to this unusual product. I’m feeling smug because I was just writing something on torta pon that I ate the other day and this only came up with 12 references on google! Great to read something non-chocolate on your blog.

  • So… can you describe in detail what the French think of sweet potatoes? Do they think that it is something you would feed animals (such as they react to corn on the cob) or do they think they are delicious?

  • I like this! It sounds it would taste like something my grandmother might have made. Except she was Friesian and may never have used buckwheat flour in her life. She made very thick, unleavened pancakes instead, with enough butter on them to shorten anyone’s life span. My grandfather, who held the buttering record, outlived her by several years nonetheless.

    I am tempted to try Kig Fa Harz and to use an old, thin pillow case. For lack of any Kevins in my life, or their T-shirts. Or any Britneys – surely she wears T-shirts, sometimes?

    The cooking method is also used for Jan in de Zak (John in the Bag), a Dutch recipe that involves boiling a yeasted wheat dough in a sack in a pot of water for hours. It is then served with molasses, for instance.

    One version van be found here.

  • I like this! It sounds it would taste like something my grandmother might have made. Exceot she was Friesian and may never have used buckwheat flour in her life. She made very thick, unleavened pancakes instead, with enough butter on them to shorten anyone’s life span. My grandfather, who held the buttering record, outlived her by several years nonetheless.

    I am tempted to try Kig Fa Harz and to use an old, thin pillow case. For lack of any Kevins in my life, or their T-shirts. Or any Britneys – surely shewwears T-shirts, sometimes?

    The cooking method is also used for Jan in de Zak (John in the Bag), a Dutch recipe that involves boiling a yeasted wheat dough in a sack in a pot of water for hours. It is then served with molasses, for instance.

    One version van be found here:
    http://www.dutchmarket.com/dutch_recipes.html#Jan_in_de_zak

  • You sly dog! You’ve at least tripled your accidental Britney hits with this post!

    I LOVE the Susan Loomis cookbook that you mentioned–not a clunker in the entire book. Have you tried the Salade Pet Tsai? I think that is what it is called. It’s a garlicky, mustardy cabbage salad that I am addicted to!

  • What a farce!

  • I’ve never heard of this dish before, but it sounds quite good. I’ll have to give it the “Old American Try”

  • I am so lucky – two of my mates come from Brest, Brittany – lovely girls! Every time they go home for a visit, they bring me crepes, lovely salt (the best, as we all know now) and they also teach me some words of the Brittany language… Last week we had Far Bretagne … lovely cake, it lasted for about 10 minutes – thanks to my husband. Long live Bretagne!

  • David,
    In your recipe you call for buckwheat flour, but the final result looks a lot like kasha (coarse buckwheat groats, not fine-ground flour). Which one are you using?
    –Debbie

  • Hi Debbie:

    It’s definately buckwheat flour. In step #5, the dumpling is rolled on the countertop until it crumbles into little bits (although some Breton’s simply slice it…but I think this is more fun.)

    Let us know how yours turns out.

    Mani: Did you know that people from Brest are called ‘Brestians’?

    I love that word!

  • I have a strong feeling I would love this, since I’m a big fan of kasha varnishkes, soba, blini, galettes, and well, basically all things buckwheat. For those of us who do love this grain, it’s simply gravy that it also happens to be high in protein and “good” carbs, whatever that means. Now I guess I’ll have to chop up some shirts, or find a muslin bag or something. Your pork loin and sweet potatoes also sound mouthwatering.

  • I’m not opposed to the idea of chocolate sprinkles on toast.

  • not to be missed for the Kig ha farz: the “lipig”, a sauce made with melted butter and onions, you put it warm on the far and the vegetables… yummy… :)

    Kenavo (good bye in Breton)
    Jean-Paul, a Breton in San Francisco

  • There’s a restaurant near Montparnasse that serves it on Thursday nights!

    http://www.restaurant-tijos.com/