Poppy seeds are used extensively in European and middle Eastern cooking. They have always been important in Ukrainian cuisine, and to this day poppies are still found in most Ukrainian gardens.
Poppy seeds are a classic addition to buttered egg noodles, fruit salad dressings and fragrant yeast breads. They add a nutty flavour and texture to cookies, cakes, breads, strudels, pastry crusts, pancake and waffle batters, and more.
A little secret all good Ukrainian cooks know: to get the true flavour of the seeds, you must first soak, then grind them.
One of my favourite desserts is poppyseed cake, which could usually be found at most Ukrainian gatherings… to my delight growing up, as my mom seldom made it.
Here’s a recipe for a poppyseed cake that Judy shared on Ukrainian Food Flair last Sunday on Nash Holos:
Poppy Seed Cake With Lemon
1 cup ground poppy seeds
1 cup milk
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
Powdered sugar for dusting
Put poppy seeds in milk and bring to a boil. Set aside for one hour.
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF Cream butter & sugar together, beat in egg yolks. Add poppy seed milk mixture.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder, stir into the batter.
Beat whites of the eggs until stiff. Fold into the batter, with vanilla, lemon juice and rind.
Grease a large loaf-pan with butter or oil. Dust the pan with flour, and add the batter.
Bake about 1 hour, if it springs back when touched with a finger, and if a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, the cake is ready.
Invert the cake over a rack to cool. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.