However controversial this ingredient can be in some parts of the world, poppy seeds are indispensable in Slovak cuisine. Like our much bigger European neighbours, we use poppy seeds in some of our vintage recipes for sweet breads, cakes and various little bakes.
I remember quite vividly the summers at my grandparents’ house in the south of Slovakia, where the climate was hot and dry enough for poppyseed pods to thoroughly ripen. We would help harvest them, remove the seeds from the pods and spread them onto large, clean blankets, where they were left to dry in the sun for a few days. Then Grandma put the seeds in hand-made cotton bags and left them to dry out completely behind the windows. We all loved her homemade pasta filled or topped with freshly ground poppy seeds.
When I last went to see my grandparents’ house, I asked my aunt about locally grown poppy seeds. I wanted to try some of Grandma’s old recipes, and was hoping to get poppy seeds from the region that had once been famous for them. To my dismay, the vast fields I remembered from my childhood were all gone. I was told it was because of strict European regulations, which had halted poppyseed farming in the area. So I had to content myself with a packet of shop-bought poppy seeds imported from – well, the label on the packet read: ‘Country of origin – EU’.
Ground Poppy Seed Rolls
For the pastry:
- 150 g butter or margarine
- 350 g plain wheat flour
- 100 ml lukewarm milk
- 1 egg
- ½ packet baking powder (about 7 g)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the filling:
- 2 cups ground poppy seeds
- 1 packet vanilla sugar (about 20 g)
- 10 tablespoons runny honey or jam
- about ½ cup hot milk
- lemon zest of 1 lemon
- Take the butter or margarine out of the fridge and place in a mixing bowl. Cut into pieces and let soften for 15 – 20 minutes. Add all other pastry ingredients and knead well to obtain a smooth, shiny dough. Cover with a dishtowel and put in the fridge for an hour.
- Grind the poppy seeds in a poppyseed or coffee grinder. Spoon in the honey or jam and stir. Add the hot milk, vanilla sugar and freshly grated lemon zest. Combine well into a semi-thick paste.
- Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer onto a floured rolling board. Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into a long roll. Cut it into 6 pieces.
- Knead each piece into a ball and set aside. Roll each ball out into a circle about 3 mm thick. Divide into 8 triangles using a pastry wheel. Place a teaspoon of the poppy seed paste onto the outer edge of each triangle and roll it in starting from the outside.
- Bend the rolls and lay them in rows onto the baking sheets. Bake in the oven preheated to 180°C for about 20 minutes or until golden.
Serve warm or cooled down with a cup of coffee for a snack, breakfast or dessert.