Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Mysterious Mak - Poppyseed

The poppy flower is but the beginning of a delicious journey in the human tradition.  Red, beautiful, growing, scattered by the wind, seeded by nature or by hands, the poppy is essentially a weed, a hardy wild flower that has possibly 6,000 years or more Ukrainian culinary tradition.

First, grow a lot of poppies to maturity.  Enjoy the beauty.  The petals will fall and the seeds will gradually dry to maturity. Before the holes in the top of the head release the seeds, bring in a bouquet of dried poppy stocks to dry further.  Pop the tops off and drain the seeds into a bowl, then sift out all the excess bits.  Keep the seeds frozen until use.

Before modern technology, in traditional use, one would grind the poppy seeds using a mortar and pestle, a large one called a makitra, макітра, and makohon, макогон.  The poppy seed releases a white liquid that smells a bit like almonds.

I have seen recipes using dried poppy seeds, but the product is much different from traditional East European cooking. While Baba used the makitra and makohon, it is safe cooking practice to quick scald the seeds before use.  Moistening the seeds, then grinding them in a blender produces a creamy, soft and white paste that makes for delicate and delicious culinary use.

Being present in the moment, you have to consider how much time, care and love traditional delicacies require.  Imagine grinding your poppy seed in this tool, which sits nobly on my shelf as a reminder of how Baba spent a lot of her winter evenings.

Can you recommend a method that has worked for you?

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