Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spice of the Month: Cinnamon and cassia

Cinnamon is the inner bark of a type of laurel tree and cassia is the outer bark. They are similar in aroma and flavour - cinnamon is sweeter and milder – you have to be a bit more careful about how much cassia you use in a dish – it is not quite as forgiving as cinnamon.

Both cinnamon and cassia are mentioned in Exodus - 30:22:

Moreover, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.

In olden times cinnamon was said to have been treasured by King Solomon.  Cinnamon has been used medicinally for lots of things including – treating nausea, fever, digestive problems, preventing tooth decay and has been even said to help diabetics control insulin.

Cassia is mainly used in savoury dishes while cinnamon is used in sweet dishes or delicate savoury ones.

Cinnamon is used to flavour creams, custards, cakes and biscuits and goes well with apples and pears. Of course cinnamon can be sprinkled on chocolate.

Cassia is an ingredient of Chinese 5 spice powder.

Pennsylvania Dutch sprinkle cinnamon sugar onto ripe tomatoes.  I need to try that!

Greeks use cinnamon in beef stews.

Cinnamon goes well with many vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes and eggplant

Used in baking it is hard to overdo the cinnamon – try using more than the recipe says

As with many spices try to buy it in small quantities

Try using it in an orange and carrot salad.  Use a bit of cinnamon in a milkshake

BIBLIOGRAPHY - with thanks to Auckland Libraries

Cook's Encyclopaedia of Spices by Sallie Morris & Lesley Mackley
Discovering Vegetables, Herbs & Spices by Susanna Lyle
Spice Market by Jane Lawson
Spicery by Ian & Elizabeth Hemphill
Spices & Natural Flavourings by Jennifer Mulherin
Spices by Sophie Grigson
Spices Condiments and Seasonings by Kenneth T Farrell
Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen by Elizabeth David
The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander

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