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Poppy seed is the dried seed of Papaver somniferum, an erect annual herb, 30-150 cm long with a 0.5-1.5 cm thick stem. The stem of the plant is smooth and glossy with a thick waxy coating. The plant has numerous leaves but few flowers. The fruit is a capsule with a waxy coating, while the seeds are numerous, very small, white grey with an oily endosperm. This seed is the spice, loved for its nutty aroma and taste. It is popularly used for adding a rich texture and flavour to dishes, as well as for its medicinal properties.
Poppy seeds paste
Take 2 tbsp of poppy seeds or as per the recipe requirement, soak in approx. 1/4 cup water in a bowl for half an hour and then blend in a mixer along with the water to a smooth paste. Use as required.
Roasted poppy seeds
To roast poppy seeds, place them in a small non-stick pan over medium-high heat and stir constantly until fragrant. This would take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Roasted poppy seeds are used to garnish breads and rolls, ground into sauces and pastry fillings, and added to vegetables and salad dressings. Turkish cuisine uses roasted poppy seeds extensively.
Soaked poppy seeds
Clean the seeds properly and remove any kind of debris. Soak the seeds in warm water or milk for 2 hours. Drain and leave on a kitchen towel till almost dry. The soaked seeds are often used alone or grounded with other spices to thicken gravy or curries.
How to Select
• Poppy seeds vary greatly in appearance. Choose the variety that suits you, but buy from a good source or brand to avoid contamination with debris, stones, etc.
• The Indian variety is generally ivory to beige coloured, while the European variety called Maw is dark grey and the Turkish variety is tobacco-brown.
• Apart from being a source of fatty oil, poppy seeds are used in various cuisines.
• They are used in fruit salad dressings and fragrant yeast breads.
• Poppy seeds add a nutty flavour and texture to breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, curries, sweets, confectionary, pastry crusts, and pancake and waffle batters.
• Indian cookery uses only the cream coloured seeds as the grey ones affect the colour of the final product.
• Generally, in Indian cuisine, the seeds are soaked and ground – alone, or with other ingredients – to thicken and flavour vegetable preparations.
• Poppy seeds are cooked with jaggery and coconut, enveloped in a case of flaky pastry and deep-fried to make a delicious sweet called karanji.
• They are often sprinkled over unleavened Indian breads like naan for the exclusive flavour, aroma and texture they offer.
How to Store
• It is always best to store poppy seeds in an airtight container in a cool and dry place.
• Poppy seeds are effective in quenching thirst, fevers, inflammation and irritation of the stomach.
• Poppy seeds are good pain relievers, which can soothe muscular and neuralgic pains. They are often taken for rheumatism.
• A paste of poppy seeds ground with lime juice is used as a topical application for dry itching.
• The milk extracted from poppy seeds, known as opium is taken with honey to cure insomnia.
• However, always remember that opium is narcotic and can cause great harm if used without proper advice and precautions. It should be not given to infants, children, pregnant ladies and people suffering from kidney diseases.
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