Today I will introduce you with two spices: anise and star anise. They seem to be very alike, but you shouldn’t confuse them one for another, because they are two different spices from two different plant families.:)
Anise is a seed of a plant Pimpinella anisum which belongs to Apiceae family, and is related to dill, cumin and fennel. Its origins are from Asia, Egypt and Greece.
Anise is a tall plant with green leaves that usually grows up to 1 meter. The flowers are white, and its fruit (commonly refered as seeds) looks like oval seeds. The seed has a licorice like smell. Dry fruits have grayish-brown color, and their taste is sweet and aromatic, and smells quite pleasent.
You can eat it as a vegetable (leaves) or as a spice and use for cooking, making liqueurs, medical purposes and any other because of it pleasant smell.
Oil, seeds and leaves are mostly used for cooking. Usually it is used for desserts, but if you’re bold enogh you can use it in salty dishes. This spice will give a pleasent aroma to any kind of sweet rice, souffle, chestnut cake, compote or marmelade. It goes well with any kind of root vegetable, pumpkin, leek or pears. plums and citrus. You should add it at the end of the cooking. As a beverage it’s used as a tea or liqueur.
Anise oil is used in making alcoholic drinks: arak, anisette, pastit, ouzo, absinthe etc. Main characteristic of these drinks is that they are colorless until you add water in them, then they become blurry white.
Anise owes its specific refreshing smell to anethol-essential oil. Other valuable substances are: vitamin A, C and B complex, potassium, calcium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and magnesium.
It is used in cough syrups, tea mixtures, against spasms, insecticides, as an antiseptic and other. Chewing anise seeds has a laxative effect and it reduces bad breath. It’s quite famous for its benefitial effect in illnesses such as: asthma, bronchitis, cough, lung diseases. Promotes urination and brings relief from dropsy.
Vets recommend it for intestinal disorders in horses and dogs.
Anise seed tea is primarily prescribed for digestive problems such as bowel sluggishness, vomiting, flatulence and nausea. Therefore it got a name Solamen intestinorum- intestine comforter.
Pour two tea spoons of anise seed with 2 dcl of hot water, and let it stay like that for 20 mins, covered. Stir occasionally and then drain it.
ANISE SEED TEA
Star anise originates from China, Vietnam and Japan and grows on an evergreen tree of Illicium Verum, which grows up to 8 meters in height. The flowers are red-purple. Pods remain after the flowers fall of. Pods have the color of rust and are only 1-2 cm big. They are used only when they are dried, never fresh. You should store them in a cool and drak place, that way their shelf life is almost a year. Star anise is related to magnolia family while anise is related to cones family. They appear to be related because they have similar chemical composition.
STAR ANISE PLANT
Star anise also contains anethol, but its taste is stronger and more bitter.
Southeast Asian cooks use star anise to give dishes (pork and poultry) that licorice like taste. It can be used alone or as a part of spice mixtures such as chinese 5 spice mixture and garam masala. You should dose it carefully beacuse its taste is extremely strong. Vietnam cuisine uses star anise in soups, indian meat stews, curry dishes while thai cuisine uses it for tea. It is used for cooking with soy sauce, marinades and breading. Cooks add star anise in the beginning (whole pods) and take them out before serving, but you can use ground version aswell.
STAR ANISE TEA
In traditional chinese medicine, star anise is used as digestive, diuretic, anti-colic, anti-rheumatism as well as a breath freshener. Recently it is used in flue medicines. However, this spice should be used carefully in medical purposes beacuse it contains substances hat can be neurotoxic when ued in large quanities.
MULLED WINE WITH A TWIST
Mulled wine season is ahead of us, therefore I advise you to try this spice combination: clove-cinnamon-star anise- orange peel. This mixture gives the mulled wine a specific, wintery note and affects the organism in a positive way. Cheers! 😀
In the end, a small recipe: hot caramel beverage!
- 50 g of sugar
- 1 vanilla sugar
- 100 ml of water
- 2 star anise pods
- 400 ml of milk (cow, soy, oat…)
Heat up sugar and vanilla sugar until they become caramelized. Add water and star anise and cook until the caramel melts. Add milk and heat up until it boils. Serve hot, with some cookies/biscuits.