Poppyseed in crucial in Hungary. When we joined the EU, banning the use of poppyseed was an issue, and to calm things down, the government had to demonstrate that yes, we are allowed to go on cooking with poppyseed – so we had an EU festival with free “mákos guba” (a poppyseed dessert) for everyone.
The symbol of wealth
‘Mákos guba’ has been part of our cuisine for centuries, it was included in the very first printed cookbook of Hungary in 1695. As Daily News Hungary writes, a lot of folk beliefs can be connected to poppy seeds. “It was believed that the seeds will bring money to the house. Just like lentils, it is the symbol of wealth. Moreover, mákos guba was traditionally served at the time of fasts, before Christmas, or on Good Friday as part of the meat and fat free diet. Since then, the dessert has become a very popular dish that can be eaten at any time.” We have recently cooked ‘mákos guba’ for our Catalan friends – well, they were surprised, they have never seen so many poppyseeds in one place. I hope they liked it! And I hope it brings good luck to them back in Spain…
And the recipe
15 tablespoons of ground poppy seeds
7 tablespoons of powdered sugar
10 pieces of dry crescent rolls
1 litre milk
1 vanilla stick or 1 pack of vanilla sugar
Start by cutting up the crescent rolls to small circles. Then bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla seeds or the vanilla sugar. Pour the milk over the rolls, let it soak for some time and then sieve the excess milk. Put one layer of rolls into a bigger glass bowl, sprinkle it with the mixture of poppy seeds and powdered sugar and keep on layering until you run out of ingredients. If you’d like, you could bake it for a few minutes, but it is not necessary. Serve it with vanilla custard or pudding.
What we paired
Tokaji Szamorodni is definitely a good choice, as Barb Wild Canadian writer writer said – she also participated in the Catalan ‘guba’ feast after some serious deep dive of Hungarian wines). You can give a try with dry Szamorodni, which is very rare, but worth trying. Pajzos makes a super dry Szamorodni, and as the winemaker explains, fermentation takes ages, but finally the result is unique. It resembles dry fino sherry, but of course Tokaj terroir is also reflected. Sweet Szamorodni is an obvious choice, the moderate residual sugar fits the moderately sweet dessert and the special taste of poppyseed. We paired Zsirai Szamorodni and it was amazing! The richness of the wine was not beaten by poppyseed at all. (In the photo Kata and Petra Zsirai can be seen with wines and desserts.)
Enemy of wines?
I also asked some fellow winewriters and sommeliers, and Péter Blazsovszky, head sommelier of Babel was absolutely again pairing anything with this dessert. “Poppyseed is the enemy of the wine, it makes everything bitter, especially botrytis and red wine. I would not recommend anything with with it, if yet I must say something, maybe a 20 year old tawny port”. He can also imagine an oaky batonnage Chardonnay, though this is not his style. Esther Pesti agrees with him pairing Chardonnay. Dániel Varga, wine blogger of Sokbor mentions Pedro Ximenez. Edit Szabó wine writer of Borsmenta claims that poppyseed soaked in milk and honey is not as hard with wine, it tends to be softer in flavour. She never serves it with vanilla custard, and in itself the dessert is great with a Sweet Szamorodni – she mentions the modern SanzonTokaj Szamorodni. Damir Holoker suggests an orange wine by Palmetta Winery – a blend of Zenit and Chardonnay), while Gergő Kundermann recommends a Greek sweet wine.
So here is Utópia, a Chardonnay based blend with distinct oakiness from Kristinus Wine Estate, Balatonboglár wine region. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are the other two varieties in this creamy, full bodied, oak aged wine. Citrus and peach on the nose, tropical fruits and again juicy peach on the palate.