Quick Recipes and Easy

The Phenomenom of Cinnamon

Cinnamon, native to India and Sri Lanka, is the inner bark of several species of tree known as Cinnamomun, a member of the laurel family. The compound responsible for Cinnamon’s distinctive spicy taste is cinnamaldehyde, and this is also found in non-related species such as cinnamon basil. Research indicates that cinnamaldehyde is both a sedative and analgesic and reduces blood pressure. Cinnamon stimulates the circulation especially to the extremities and has traditionally been taken as a “warming” herb, sometimes in combination with ginger. As such, the spice is used to relieve the symptoms of the common cold, including aching muscles. Cinnamon’s volatile oils posses both antiviral and stimulating properties. It is also a classical remedy for digestive problems. Cinnamon accelerates the digestion of fats and enhances the activity of trypsin, an enzyme that breaks down proteins in the small intestine.

In the magical realm cinnamon is burned as incense, made into sachets and drunk as an infusion to induce psychic powers and spiritual awareness and to promote healing and prosperity.

The ancient Egyptians used cinnamon for embalming and the Hebrews used the oil for anointing. Wreaths made from the leaves of the cinnamon tree decorated Roman temples.

Most cinnamon consumed in North America is in fact cassia, a related species and native to China and Japan, although much of it now is imported from Indonesia and Vietnam. There are several varieties of cassia with different botanical names, but all lumped under the appellative, fake cinnamon. These cassias shouldn’t be confused with the leguminosae (the pea family) cassias such as senna. Cassia is hotter and slightly bitter when compared with Cinnamomun verum, or right cinnamon, and it is preferred in Chinese cooking. Right cinnamon contains some eugenol (the primary constituent of clove oil) and other compounds that give it a sweeter, more subtle and complex flavor and for this Mexican and European cooks favor it. It is certainly preferred in dessert dishes.

Cinnamon loses its pungency rapidly, so it is best to store whole cinnamon sticks in a cool location in an airtight glass container, grinding the sticks into powder in a coffee grinder as needed. Ground cinnamon is only potent for about three months. Cinnamon sticks will retain their flavor for about six months. Both will last twice as long if kept in the freezer.

Cinnamon is the key ingredient in the Indian spice mix known as Garam Masala. Ideally you should lightly toast the spices while whole over a low heat in an un-oiled frying pan, allow to cool, then grind them into a powder in an ancient coffee grinder reserved for that purpose. Garam Masala delivers the culinary coup de grace to spicy meat and chicken curries. It is always added at the very end of the cooking process. After grinding the ratio should be as follows:

Garam Masala · 4 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon

· 1 Tbsp. ground cloves

· 1 Tbsp. ground cardamom

· 1 tsp. ground mace

Few other spices marry so well with both sweet and savory dishes as cinnamon.

Following are three recipes manifesting the versatility of this ancient spice. The first recipe is modified from a traditional specialty of Alsace. The classic recipe uses goose, but here the more well loved and available duck has been substituted.

Roast Duck with Cinnamon Caramelized Apples

· 1 medium Duck

· 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

· 4 firm, ripe apples, peeled, cored and cut into slim wedges

· Juice of 1 lemon

· 3 Tbsp. honey

· ¼ cup of brandy or Calvados

· 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Rinse the duck inside and out. Pat dry and sprinkle the outside with salt, black pepper and dried sage, thyme, savory and/or suitable herbs of your choice. Cut small slits into the duck and insert the garlic slices into the cuts. Place the duck, breast side up, in a large roasting pan (I like to cook potatoes with the duck) and roast at 375F for up to two hours. I favor well-done, crispy duck, but those who don’t share this preference can reduce the cooking time accordingly. As the duck cooks, baste it with its own stout, removing the excess with a spoon. Reserve four Tbsp. of the duck stout to add to the caramelized apples.

While the duck is cooking, mix the apple slices, honey, cinnamon, brandy, four Tbsp. of duck stout and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Allow to marinate until there is about one hour left of cooking time for the duck and then bake in a shallow baking dish alongside the duck at the same temperature. After about one hour, the apples should be tender, golden and caramelized. If there is excess liquid left in with the apples when the duck is ready, remove the duck from the oven and increase the heat to cook off the liquid. Be careful not to burn the apples but. Serve the duck with the caramelized apples.

The following recipe originally called for the use of bulgur wheat, but I have substituted millet out of personal preference. It is also better for those who wish to reduce or eliminate wheat in their diet. I have also added nutmeg and cardamom as these spices complement millet very well.

Arabian Lamb · 1 lamb shoulder roast, boned

· ½ cup of millet, cooked

· 1 medium onion, chopped

· 3 cloves of garlic, minced

· 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

· 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

· 1 tsp. ground cumin

· 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

· 1 tsp. ground cardamom

· 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped

· 1 cup dried apricots, chopped

· ½ cup of pine nuts.

· ½ cup dry red wine

· ½ cup vegetable or herb bouillon

· Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a saucepan, sauté the onion until translucent, and then add the garlic, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, pine nuts, and salt and pepper. While stirring, sauté a few minutes longer and allow to cool. When cooled, add the cooked millet, dried apricots and mint leaves. Open up the lamb shoulder, spread the stuffing and then roll up tightly, tying the roast with string. Roast in a preheated 350F oven for one hour before adding the wine and stock to the pan. Roast for a further 30 minutes. Transfer the roast to a heated platter, cover – with a lid or with foil – and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Skim the excess stout from the roasting pan and then place on a medium heat, scraping the pan to remove the sediment. Allow the gravy to reduce and thicken somewhat. Add a small more wine if necessary and, if preferred, thicken more with cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Carve the lamb and pour the gravy over the slices. Garnish with fresh mint if desired. Serves six to eight.

Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins · 1 egg

· ¾ of a cup of milk (nut or soy milk may be substituted)

· 1 cup dried cranberries

· 1 apple, chopped

· ½ cup of butter, melted

· 1 cup of whole wheat flour

· 1 cup quick oats, uncooked

· 1/3 cup of brown sugar

· 5 teaspoons baking powder

· 1 teaspoon salt

· 1 teaspoon nutmeg

· 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat the egg in a bowl then add the dried cranberries, chopped apple, soymilk and melted butter. Mix the dry ingredients in another bowl, then fold into the egg mixture, just enough to moisten. Pour into greased muffin pans. Bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Makes 10 to 12 muffins.

Bruce Burnett is an award-winning writer, a chartered herbalist and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing. Bruce and his wife Delaine own Olivia’s Fashion, Furnishings & Gifts at 428 – 1st Avenue, Ladysmith, BC CANADA. Website: olivias.ca/ olivias.ca/ Read more published articles by Bruce Burnett on his personal website: bruceburnett.ca/ bruceburnett.ca/

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