Bird’s Milk

It’s time to cook something eggy, because it’s Easter and we want to put all those yolks and whites left after decorating our Easter eggs to good use. So why not prepare Bird’s Milk – a simple yet nutritious dish which is said to have originated in France, but my mind will always associate it with my Grandma’s rural kitchen in the south of Slovakia.

Bird’s Milk (or Vtáčie mlieko in Slovak) has different names in different countries. In France alone this classic dessert appears under two names as Œufs à la neige (which translates as ‘snowy eggs’), or Île flottante (Îles flottantes in plural) – the latter being the source of the English name for Floating Island(s), a popular dessert made of whipped egg whites (meringues) floating in a custard sauce. Is that why the French call this sweet sauce ‘crème anglaise’ in return? While I wait for someone to answer my question, let’s see what we need for a Slovak version of Îles flottantes.

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Bird’s Milk
Makes 4

For the cream:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 400 ml milk
  • 40 g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the ‘meringues’:

  • 4 egg whites
  • a packet of vanilla sugar (20 g)
  • a pinch of salt
  • cinnamon to drizzle
  • berries of your choice

Method:

To make the cream, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and stir evenly into the egg mixture.

Heat the milk in a pot over a medium heat until steaming. Set aside. Pour a few tablespoons of the milk into the egg mixture to warm it. Stir gently and transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to the warm milk.

DSC_0084Place over a medium-low heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts thickening, continue cooking for another 5 – 10 minutes until you achieve almost cream-like consistency. Remember to stir well all the time. Don’t let the mixture boil or it will curdle.

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‘Vanilkový krém’ stands for vanilla cream or custard in English, while the French often call it ‘creme anglaise’.

Divide the warm mixture into dessert bowls and let cool.

In the meantine, make the ‘meringues’ by whisking the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla sugar and put aside.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Take large spoonfuls of the ‘egg snow’ and arrange them in rows on the tray. Preheat the oven to 200ºC, put in the baking tray and turn down the heat to 100ºC. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the meringues are crisp and lightly browned at tops. Let cool at room temperature.

Cover the cooled cream with the meringues, drizzle with the cinnamon and top with the berries. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

And if you ask me why the Slovaks call it Vtáčie mlieko (Bird’s Milk), I can only give a speculative answer. Those fluffy ‘meringues’ sitting in the vanilla cream remind me of bird feathers, and I’d swear I’ve heard it on some occasion that they can be shaped and decorated like birds. I may give it a try next time. 😉

Christmas Baskets

My mum used to simply call them Košíčky (Baskets) and that’s how these dainty cakes are recorded in my old hand-written recipe book. Mum always made them for Christmas, because she knew they would be winners and none of us would make excuses to avoid helping. It was quite a lot of work, granted, but there was also a fair chance to get a sneak lick of the cream or the chocolate icing when Mum wasn’t looking.

I can’t remember when was the last time I baked Košíčky, but it seems long enough to dust this old classic off and give it a new twist. The good thing about Christmas Baskets is that you can bake the pastry well in advance, and do the cream and icing a couple of days before Christmas. And that’s what I did.

In the recipe below I only reduced the amount of sugar for the pastry, but changed the ingredients for the cream/filling. If you want to give it a go, make sure you have enough cake moulds. As you can see in the photos below, I used a pack of fluted tartlet pans (60 mm diameter).

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Christmas Baskets

Christmas Baskets
Makes about 60

For the pastry:

  • 100 g ground nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 150 g butter
  • 50 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ sachet baking powder (about 7 g)
  • flour for dusting

For the filling:

  • 450 g thick yoghurt (Greek is perfect)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • jam (I used home-made blackberry one)
  • canned or fresh fruit to decorate

For the chocolate icing:

  • 100 g cooking or dark chocolate
  • 50 g margarine or shortening

Method:

I like to have my nuts freshly ground before baking, although they can be bought at the store these days. In Slovakia, walnuts are by far the most popular for baking.

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I use my old, but very reliable hand grinder to grind walnuts.

To make the pastry, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and combine well until a smooth, soft dough has formed. I always knead the dough by hand, but a food processor is fine as well, I guess. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel and let the dough rest for an hour in a cool place.

Prepare the cake moulds and start filling them like this:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and bake each batch for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool down and remove the baskets from the moulds by tilting them gently, as seen in the photo below:

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The baked baskets slide out of the moulds easily. Store them in an airtight container or start filling them straight away.

Spread a little of the jam at the bottom of each basket.

To make the filling, mix the yoghurt with the sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl. Fill in each basket with the yoghurt mixture and level the surface. Put a piece of fruit in the middle. Cover with the chocolate icing.

To make the chocolate icing, follow the instructions here.

Let the baskets rest in a cool place for at least 24 hours, in which time the pastry will have absorbed all the flavours and softened.

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A very happy and peaceful Christmas to you all!

Sunday Plum Sponge Delight

Summer is undeniably over and so is the plum season. We still get quite a lot of sunshine here in Slovakia, but the temperatures have dropped and there’s this autumnal nip in the air that makes my gait brisker and my mind more agile.

The trim jars of plum jam from last summer’s harvest still grace the preserve shelf of my pantry, and I’ve already bottled some from this year’s crop, so the last batch of luscious, dark blue plums from my friend’s garden will meet a different fate.

I’ve just remembered two ancient tins I bought years ago for Metrový koláč (or Metre-long Cake), dusted them off and am ready to experiment. My baking tin size is 30 x 10 x 5 cm each, they’re identical and quite specific, I know, but don’t despair. They can be replaced by two traditional 2lb loaf tins (900g), if you want to join in the fun. And if you can’t get hold of plums, feel free to use any seasonal fruit (preferably soft and juicy) for a nice, squidgy sponge and a lush, creamy sauce.

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Sunday Plum Sponge Delight

For the sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 200 g castor sugar
  • 200 g flour
  • 100 ml warm water
  • 100 ml oil
  • a packet of baking powder (13 g)
  • 400 g fresh plums
  • oil or margarine for greasing + flour for dusting the tins

For the sauce:

  • 500 g fresh plums
  • 100 ml water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • a piece of cinnamon stick (about 5 cm)
  • 200 ml cooking cream (12% fat in Slovakia)
  • a pinch of salt

Method:

To make the sponge, grease the insides of the baking tins with oil or margarine. Make sure  you cover all the little ridges. Dust with a thin layer of flour.

Wash , halve and stone all the plums. Don’t forget to put 500 g of them aside for the sauce.

Separate the egg whites into a mixer. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and beat them with the sugar until the mixture is light and airy. Slowly add the water, the oil and the sifted flour mixed with the baking powder. Remember to stir all the time.

Whisk the egg whites in the mixer until they form soft, white peaks. This is what we call ‘snow’ in Slovakia. Spoon by spoon, transfer the ‘egg snow’ to the batter and fold in gently.

Divide the batter between the two cake tins and gently spread out with a spatula. Immerse the plums in the batter and put both cake tins in the oven. Bake at 180°C for about 40 minutes or until the cakes turn golden brown.

Let the cakes cool down on a wooden board. After 10 minutes, gently ease the sides of the cake from the tin with a cutlery knife. Turn upside down and tap on the back of the tin to slowly release the cake onto the board. Set aside.

To make the sauce, put the the other part of the plums in a saucepan. Pour in the water, add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Throw in the cinnamon stick and stir well. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Put aside and let cool slightly, then remove the cinnamon stick.

Cut three slices of the cake and place on a dessert plate. Pour the warm plum sauce over them and serve immediately.

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Sunday Plum Sponge Delight

Have a great, relaxing Sunday! It looks like here in Slovakia it’s going to be another sunny and leisurely one 🙂

Dobosh cookies

My daughter and I have tried another old recipe from my hand-written cookbook recently – it’s one of those I got from my Mum years ago. I remember I quite liked Dobošové kolieska’ (Dobosh cookies) as a child, not to mention the fact they always looked immaculate when Mum laid her hands on them. She’s always been so particular about the look of her desserts, unlike me, who took this very casual approach to baking of sorts: ‘What’s the point? It’s going to be eaten in a fraction of time anyway.’

For Mum, each dessert is a work of art, and she’ll give hers a great deal of time and attention. When I chose to recreate her Dobosh cookies this past Easter, it was because honey-based cookies are popular Easter bakes in Slovakia.

Dobosh cookies
Dobosh cookies

Unlike the round cookies in my Mum’s original recipe, I gave mine a more seasonable shape. So here goes the recipe:

Dobosh cookies

For the dough:

  • 150 g fine sugar
  • 80 g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 1 sachet baking powder (13 g in Slovakia)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 300 g strong (coarse) flour
  • 200 g fine (pastry) flour

For the cream:

  • 250 ml milk
  • 20 g strong (coarse) flour
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar (20 g in Slovakia)
  • 120 g butter
  • 100 g fine sugar

For the chocolate icing:

  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 50 g margarine or butter

Method:

Take the butter out of the fridge to let it soften. Place the amount assigned for the cream in a mixing bowl.

To make the dough, put the butter in a saucepan together with the sugar, honey, eggs and the ground cinnamon. Melt over a low heat, stirring all the time. Don’t cook! Add the baking powder, the lemon juice and stir again. Set aside to cool awhile.

While the mixture is still warm, add to it the strong (coarse) flour and work into a smooth dough of medium thickness.

Sieve the fine (pastry) flour onto a rolling board, and transfer the doughy mixture on top. Work into a smooth, thick dough and divide into two balls.

Roll out each ball evenly until the dough is about 3 mm thick. Cut out cookies of various shapes and transfer onto a baking tray lined up with a piece of parchment. Bake in batches at 180ºC until the cookies turn golden brown.

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To make the cream, pour the milk in a saucepan and add the strong (coarse) flour together with the vanilla sugar. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture has thickened. Set aside and let cool down.

Meanwhile, cream the soft butter with the fine sugar in the mixing bowl. Spoon by spoon, add the vanilla cream and combine until smooth. Spread a teaspoon of the vanilla buttercream in between two cookies and press slightly with your fingers. Smooth the edges for a nice finish.

To make the chocolate icing, break the chocolate and the margarine or butter into a small saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir until the ingredients combine into a smooth, loose mixture. Put aside.

Lay a piece of parchment on a worktop. When the chocolate has thickened slightly, dip each cookie in it and hold for a second to let the excess chocolate drop off. Stand the cookies on the parchment to let the chocolate set.

If it gets too thick, reheat the chocolate gently to make it loose again. When you have covered all the cookies, let them stand at room temperature for an hour or two. This will allow the chocolate to set, as well as penetrate through the dough to soften it and enhance the flavours.

At the end of the day, you’ll be rewarded with a sizeable batch of Dobosh cookies – a delectable treat for your guests, or a finger-licking accompaniment to your afternoon tea.

Dobosh cookies
Dobosh cookies

Low-sugar Non-dairy Plum Pie

This recipe could also be subtitled ‘when the winter asks you what you were doing in the summer‘. My answer would be (as that of many other Slovak home cooks): making jam, bottling and preserving all the summer produce from our gardens.

Bottled plums

As I said in one of my previous posts, last year was very good for plums, and my pantry is still half-filled with bottles of the deep red, squashy fruit, as well as jars of sticky jam. They bring back a whiff of the summer with all its smells and flavours each time I open a new bottle.

It’s good to have an ample supply of these conserved vitamins and minerals on hand, especially when you’re feeling low and seeking comfort in a quick, simple dessert. Here is one that is low on calories, and will only take you about 40 minutes to make.

Low-sugar Non-dairy Plum Pie

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • canned plums or other fruit
  • 1 cup plum juice (I used the juice from my bottled plums)
  • 1 sachet baking powder (13 g content in Slovakia)
  • vanilla sugar to dust the finished pie
  • some juice to sprinkle over the top

Method:

  1. Grease a baking tray with oil or margarine and dust it with flour.
  2. Strain the plums on a large sieve and save the juice.
  3. Put all the ingredients (except the plums, but including the juice) in a mixing bowl and stir well until smooth.
  4. Pour the batter in the baking tray and spread evenly all around it.
  5. Stone the plums, if needed, and place them on the batter in rows.
  6. Put in the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the crust turns golden brown.
  7. Take out of the oven, let cool on a cooling mat, and cut into squares or shapes of your choice.
  8. Dust with the vanilla sugar, sprinkle some of the remaining juice over the top, and serve warm with a cup of tea or coffee.
Low-sugar Non-dairy Plum Pie
Low-sugar Non-dairy Plum Pie

This is a light but satisfying dessert that makes enough portions for a little party. The fruit juice gives it extra zest and moisture, which brings a delightful, finger-licking experience.

Banana No-bake Minicakes

As I wrote in the previous post, these little cakes are my family’s favourites for the Silvester buffet. You only need 4 ingredients to make them, yet you’re sure to have lots of fun alongside.

I have checked the availability of baby biscuits on the Internet, and it seems they can be bought quite easily around the world. Their shape and formula may change from country to country, but I assume they’re all made from top quality ingredients, as they are meant for babies. Whether for babies or not, we use them in quite a few desserts in my country, especially no-bake ones.

Baby biscuits are a vital ingredient for quite a few Slovak desserts

As for the chocolate icing, we in Slovakia prefer margarine to butter. There’s a specifically designed margarine brand on the market, which makes the icing set very well.

Banana No-bake Minicakes
Makes about 50

2 bananas (overripe or leftover are fine)
200 g small round baby biscuits
100 g dark or cooking chocolate, broken to pieces  
50 g butter or margarine
50 cocktail sticks or toothpicks

Method:

Prepare the chocolate icing by melting the chocolate and the butter or margarine over a medium-low heat.* Stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny, then put aside.

* I make my chocolate icing by melting and combining the two ingredients in a steam bath, as seen in the pictures below:

Slice one banana and put each slice in between two baby biscuits. Fix in place with a cocktail stick passed through the middle.* Dip in the melted chocolate and stand on a piece of parchment to let the chocolate set.

* Although the baby biscuits are quite hard at first, they will soften nicely when covered with the chocolate icing.

Repeat the same procedure with the other banana. If you find the chocolate icing too thick to work with, reheat it gently to make it loose again. This is where my steam bath comes in handy.

Let the minicakes stand at room temperature for an hour or two. This will not only allow the chocolate to set, but also penetrate through to the banana and soften the biscuits.

Banana No-bake Minicakes

The end result is a simple, yet wonderful combination of flavours soaked in each little bite that melts in your mouth.

Light Apple Cake

Before we start gorging on more festive desserts, let’s have this simple yet satisfying apple cake that’s fit for a Sunday breakfast, an afternoon snack, or a light dessert anytime around.

It’s an old Slovak recipe that has been in my personal cookbook since I started learning to bake years ago. I got it from my Mum, tried and tested it dozens of times while experimenting with different ingredients.

The original recipe uses pork lard instead of butter or margarine, because (as my Mum says) the dough is more pliable, easier to work with and therefore less likely to tear. I have also replaced sour cream in my Mum’s recipe with yoghurt to make the cake lighter and healthier. For a fruitier, more succulent taste, increase the amount of apples – the quantity stated in the recipe below is the minimum required in proportion to other ingredients.

Light Apple Cake
Light Apple Cake

Light Apple Cake

For the dough:
500 g fine flour
150 g sugar
150 g butter/margarine/pork lard
1 egg
1 sachet baking powder (about 13 g)
200 g plain yoghurt

For the filling:
1½ kg apples, grated
cinnamon and vanilla sugar to taste

egg or butter for glazing

Method:

If you are using butter, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to dough making and let it soften.

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add all other ingredients. Combine well into a smooth, supple dough. Cover with a dishcloth and let stand in a cool place for an hour.

Meanwhile, peel and wash the apples. Grate them in another bowl and cover to avoid browning. Some people grate apples with their skin on – just follow your personal tastes and preferences here.

Grease a baking tray with butter, margarine or pork lard, and dust with flour.

Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place on a floured rolling board. Divide the dough into halves. DSC_0242Roll out one half into a rectangle the size of your baking tray. Remember to dust with more flour whenever the dough starts sticking to either the rolling pin or the board. Carefully roll the sheet of the dough onto the rolling pin and transfer into the baking tray. Gently press the dough with your floured fingers to fill in any blanks or fix tears.

Spread the grated apples onto the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon and vanilla sugar. Roll out the other half of the dough in the same manner as the first one and transfer onto the apples. It does take some skill, granted, but you can always fix tears in the dough or empty spots by gently patching them with floured hands.

Lighly prick the upper layer of dough in several places with a fork, glaze with a beaten egg or melted butter and put in the oven. Bake at 180ºC for about 25 minutes or until the crust is coming off the sides of the baking tray.

Let cool down, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into shapes of your own choice. The cake is best eaten warm, but it can also be enjoyed cold with a cup of your favourite brew.

Fluffy Slovak Apple Cake
Fluffy Slovak Apple Cake

Apple cake is by all means the most popular dessert in Slovakia, as we are a country with a wide variety and good quality of home-grown apples. The best apples, however, come from people’s private gardens, where they are carefully looked after and nurtured to perfection.

I’m extremely lucky to have a friend whose parents are devoted gardeners in a remote village up in the mountains. They use no artificial fertilizers or chemicals, so some of their apples come with blemishes and imperfections, but the taste, smell and colour of their produce is second to none.

As this was a very good year for apples, the generous supplies from my friend kept coming until late autumn. No wonder I have made my family’s favourite fluffy apple cake on numerous occasions.

Quick-and-easy Plum Pie

This is a reminder of the last fresh produce of plums I got from my friend a few weeks ago. Her parents have a huge orchard in a remote village up in the mountains, which had been brimming with plums of all sorts and sizes for over a month. Yes, it was a very good year for plums and I was busy bottling, drying and cooking them as the generous supplies kept coming from my friend.

When dealing with loads of fresh fruit of bio quality at a time, you have to be really quick and imaginative to preserve all the fruit’s flavours. And that’s exactly when these quick and simple recipes come in handy. Especially if they produce tasty, nourishing cakes that give as much pleasure to the senses as the most intricate creations. Or don’t they?

 Quick-and-easy Plum Pie

2 cups fine pastry flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup oil
1 cup milk
1 sachet baking powder (13 g content in Slovakia)
1 vanilla sugar (20 g content in Slovakia)
fresh plums or other fruit

Method:

Wash the plums and cut them in halves. Discard the stones. Grease a baking tray and dust it with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients (except for the fruit) together until well-combined and smooth. As you can see from the pictures below, I added a few teaspoons of fruit pulp left in the freezer from preserving blackberries. Not only did it enhance the moist, fruity flavour of the final product, but also added more fibre and an exciting twist to the cake’s texture.

Pour the batter in the baking tray and distribute the plums in rows all around it. Bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Insert a skewer in the middle of the cake to check its readiness. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done and well cooked through. Take it out of the oven and let cool down on a cooling mat or rack.

Cut into squares and lightly dust with sugar. Serve warm or cold, ideally with your favourite brew.

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Feeling tempted or inspired? Give it a try and make your very own creation by using any fruit you like, either fresh or canned. Bon appetit!

Quick-and-easy Chocolate Cake

My daughter came home for a weekend, so we could bake together again after a long time – and we decided to make our favourite chocolate cake.

This quick-and-easy recipe has been in my personal hand-written cookbook for ages. I don’t remember who I got it from and when. I know, however, that it has never failed to satisfy my family’s cravings for ‘something sweet’, as we in Slovakia say.

Both my daughters took the recipe with them when they’d left home to live and work abroad. The cake had an international success with their French, English, Spanish and Greek friends. The good thing about the recipe is that it uses simple ingredients that are easy to find anywhere in the world. What’s more, they are very likely to be on hand at any time, so if you have guests coming at a very short notice, here is a perfect dessert to surprise them with that can be made within an hour. And it makes enough portions for a small party!

Quick-and-easy Chocolate Cake

250 g unsalted butter or margarine
1½ cup sugar
1 cup water
2 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder


2 cups wheat flour
3 eggs
1 sachet baking powder (13 g in Slovakia)
1 sachet vanilla sugar (20 g in Slovakia)
a little rum essence
dried shredded coconut or ground nuts to sprinkle on top

Method:

Heat the butter/margarine, sugar, water and cocoa powder in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat until the butter/margarine has melted. Stir from time to time to ensure all the ingredients combine well. Take away from the heat and put aside ½ cup of the chocolate mixture. You will need it later for drenching the cake.

Grease a baking tray and dust it with flour.

When the chocolate mixture has cooled down a little, gradually add to it the flour, the eggs, the baking powder and vanilla sugar. Remember to stir well after adding each ingredient to obtain a smooth, shiny dough. Flavour with a few drops of the rum essence.*

*As you can see from the picture above, left, I also added a few teaspoons of the blackberry pulp, left in the freezer from preserving blackberries.

Transfer the dough into the baking tray and spread around evenly. Put in the oven and bake at 180ºC for about 25 minutes, or until the dough starts coming away from the sides of the baking tray. The cake is done and cooked through when a skewer inserted in it will come out clean.

Take the cake out of the oven and put on a cooling mat. Spoon the ½ cup of the cool chocolate mixture all over the cake while it is still hot to give it a moist, sticky cover. Sprinkle with the dried shredded coconut or ground nuts.

When it has cooled down, cut the cake into squares, rectangles or other more imaginative shapes. My daughter suggested serving it with coconut ice-cream. Yum, if only we’d had some at home 😦

But a cup of coffee was a good replacement …

Quick-and-easy Chocolate Cake

Ground Poppy Seed Rolls

However controversial this ingredient can be in some parts of the world, poppy seeds are indispensable in Slovak cuisine, especially baking. Like our much bigger European neighbours, we use poppy seeds in some of our vintage recipes for sweet breads, hot desserts, 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 and mature. We as children would help harvest them and spread the tiny blue poppy seeds on blankets after they had been removed from the pods. My Grandma would then leave the seeds to dry in the sun for a few days. They were put in hand-made cotton bags afterwards, and left on the shelves behind large glass windows to soak up still more sunshine and dry further. We all loved Grandma’s home-made pasta filled or sprinkled with freshly-ground poppy seeds. Her strudels with cherries or apples smothered in poppyseed paste were something we could die for. She was so imaginative – and practical at the same time – when it came to using fresh, seasonal produce from the garden in her kitchen.

When I last went to see the old house, I asked my aunt, who lives there now, for locally grown poppy seeds. I wanted to try some of the old recipes, and was hoping to get quality regional ingredients. To my dismay, the vast poppy fields I remembered from my childhood were all gone. Neither could I see poppies in the village gardens or on the people’s little farms. I was told it’s because of strict European regulations, and poppy seeds don’t seem to be on the list of ‘approved staples’. We can still buy them in most shops around the country, but it appears we are no longer allowed to grow them. 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

Makes 48

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:

1 cup ground poppy seeds
1 packet vanilla sugar (about 20 g)
jam and/or hot milk to bind the poppy seeds
sugar to taste
orange or lemon zest to taste

Method:        

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 dish-towel and put in the fridge for an hour.

Now let’s make the poppy seed filling.

Although there are ready-to-use, ground poppy seeds available in our supermarkets, I prefer to buy whole seeds and grind them in a mill, specifically designed for poppy seeds. It’s quite laborious but well-worth it, as freshly-ground seeds do taste different. To bind them and make into paste, I used my runny plum jam (5 tablespoonfuls) and hot milk (about a third cup). Honey, too, is an excellent binding agent that we prefer to use in the winter. To finish the filling for the rolls, I added the vanilla sugar and freshly grated lemon zest to the seeds. When all is well combined, the poppy seed paste should look like that in the picture below, right:

Put the poppy seed paste aside and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer onto a floured rolling board. Dust your hands with flour and form a long roll. With a dusted knife, cut the roll into 6 pieces.

Knead each piece into a ball and set aside. With a rolling pin, roll each dough ball out to make a round shape the size of a plate. Divide into 8 triangles using a pastry wheel. Place half the teaspoon of the poppy seed paste onto the outer edge of each triangle and roll it in starting from the outside:

If you are as generous with the poppy seeds as I was, you might have to look for an alternative filling like jam, Nutella or even cheese to fill up all the dough. Leave your rolls straight or bend them at both ends like I did – the choice is yours:

Lay the rolls out on the baking tray and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or cold with a cup of tea or coffee.

Hmmmh … sitting back and watching the sun coming through the heavy clouds after the storm, I think I’ll bake them again for my niece’s wedding next weekend. We might have been denied our poppy seed farming, granted, but we’re not going to have our distinctive baking culture taken away.