Food Advent Calendar – No.8: Star Anise
The star anise is an obvious ingredient for an all-time Christmas pantry ingredient. This decorative spice is commonly used in Christmas recipes from hot toddies to meat spice mixes to desserts.
Star anise is commonly confused with anise seed. Despite the similarities in their name and flavour, anise and star anise are two very different spices. True anise, a herb in the parsley family, produces small seeds with a potent, liquorice-like flavour. Star anise is the star-shaped fruit of a tree – a member of the magnolia family – native to warm-climate areas of southern China. The unrelated plants contain the same flavour compound, a substance called anethole.
Star anise is widely used in Asian cooking, and it’s a signature ingredient in Chinese “five-spice” powder. Similarly, it is one of the stronger flavours in garam masala blends. Like cinnamon sticks, the hard, woody fruit are often added whole to long-cooking sauces and then retrieved before the meal is served.
Consider making your own home-made Christmas gift?