Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Anise (star anise and ground) - Margaret Ullrich

Pepper, Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg.
Old favorites.
The only possible newbie was the Cardamom.
Unless you're Swedish.


Well, say hello to your new little friend.

Anise has a licorice-like flavor.  
If you like licorice, you'll love it.
If you don't, you won't.
So it goes.

Anise comes from the parsley family.
Star anise is from an evergreen shrub found in Asia.
It's the dominant flavor in Chinese five-spice powder. 

The shrub is called illicium, Latin for allurement.
I guess the Latins liked licorice.
The Romans chewed on anise to aid digestion when overindulging.
Perfect for this time of year.
There's also a liquere, anisette.
Some Italians add anisette to their coffee.
Some non-Italians do, too.

In the Middle East, anise was believed to chase away the 'Evil Eye'.
Also perfect for this time of year if you got a big screen TV in your stocking.

Anise was once considered so precious, it was taxed to repair London Bridge.
No, we shouldn't give the tax department any ideas.

If you've bought star anise and the recipe calls for ground, you can put some 
in a piece of foil and pound them with a hammer.
Or whirr them in a blender. 

And what to do with ground anise?
Sprinkle into cored apples before baking.
Add to fruit pies, fruit salads, canapes, cookies and cakes.
Add to sugar cookies and shortbread.
Use in meat loaf, fish sauces, sweet pickles and cream cheese.  

Seeds or star anise can be added to broths or tomato-based fish soup.
You can also stir them into puddings, or add to cooked or fresh plum 
or peach desserts.
Toss a few seeds with coconut, raisins and dried pineapple for a snack.

A few seeds stirred into warm, sweetened milk makes a soothing nightcap.
Something we could all use right about now.

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