It was at a friend’s place in Mysore that I had first tasted kheer made with khuskhus or poppy seeds. When at the dinner table they offered the dessert as ‘ghasaghasa payasam’ I wondered what it was. And then when I tasted it, I savoured it, I enjoyed it and promptly asked for the recipe. And that is when I realised that it was made with khuskhus.
Khuskhus is known variously in various places – in English it is poppy seeds, khuskhus in Hindi, ghasa ghasa in Kannada, posto in Bengali and so on. They are very nutritious, and less allergenic than many other seeds and nuts. They are a potential source of anti-cancer drugs. They are rich in thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid but do not have carotene. Traces of minerals such as iodine, manganese, copper magnesium and zinc are found. The seeds also contain oxalic acid, lecithin, and traces of narcotine. Poppy seeds are high in protein.
Poppy seed is basically an oilseed obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Its botanical name means 'sleep bearing.' Papaver somniferum is an annual herb which has a thick stem with waxy coating, has numerous leaves and few flowers. Its fruit is a capsule also with a waxy coating which encloses numerous very small white grey seeds. Poppy is a self pollinated plant. Poppy seeds can quench thirst, and used effectively to relieve fevers, inflammation and irritation of stomach. They are also pain relievers and are good for those suffering from rheumatism. It also soothes both muscular and neuralgic pains. Poppy seeds when ground with lemon juice can be applied to areas affected by dry itch.
Khuskhus or poppy seeds have been harvested by various civilizations for thousands of years.
In Indian and Pakistani cuisine khuskhus has been widely used sometimes as a thickening agent and also to give a texture and an added flavour to a recipe.
They were used in many dishes like as rusk, bagels, muffins, cakes in North America. Even in Europe it was used to sprinkle on buns and pastries. Even the Germans and Polish people used it in breads and desserts.
Khuskhus has been used, whole or ground, as a spice, condiment, a garnish, a thickener and sometime even as a main ingredient. They are used both in savoury dishes and desserts. Poppy seeds used to thicken the gravy have to be soaked first before grinding them.
However there is a word of caution, it should be given with proper precautions and should not be given to infants, children, pregnant ladies and people suffering from kidney diseases.
Try this simple and tasty snack called Begun Bhaja. Wash and cut 4 medium long brinjals into half centimeter thick slices. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1½ teaspoons red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, salt and 4 tablespoons poppy seeds on both sides of slices and keep aside for 15 minutes. Heat sufficient oil in kadai and deep fry the slices till golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle salt and some more red chilli powder. Serve hot.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.