Monday, January 25, 2010

Anise Seed vs Star Anise

I hope you all had the pleasure of eating Plato Paceño in celebration of Alasitas. As you saw in the Plato Paceño recipe from yesterday's post, anise seed is the one flavoring, other than salt, used in making Plato Paceño. Its also used in the tasty fried Peruvian picarones and Bolivian buñuelos.
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between anise seed and star anise? Is it one spice or two? Is anise seed the seed that comes from star anise? Today's post is dedicated to demystifying these two great spices. At the bottom of the post is a recipe for Middle Eastern Torshi which uses anise as well as many other spices.
Star Anise and Aniseed

Anise Seed a.k.a. Aniseed
  • Small, light brown, oval seeds with ridges
  • Used whole, ground or as an extract
  • Native to Mediterranean and Middle East
  • Botanically related to fennel, cumin and caraway
  • Said to aid digestion
  • The leaves of the anise plant are used as an herb
  • Anise seed oil is used to flavor liqueurs such as Sambuca (Italy), Ouzo (Greece) and Anisette (French), Aguardiente (Columbian), Chartreuse (French), Absinthe (French) and many other cordials around the world.
  • The aroma and taste of anise seed is sweet with a subtle licorice flavor
  • Anise seed is  mostly used in cakes, breads, cookies, candy , tea and pickling brine, but it is also surprsingly good in savory dishes such as stews.
  • Chew a few aniseeds after a meal to freshen your breath

Star Anise
  • One of the prettiest and most recognizable spices around this rusty red-brown colored, eight-pointed star shaped seed pod houses shiny amber colored seeds
  • Star anise can be used whole, in pieces or ground
  • The fruit of a Chinese evergreen tree
  • Native to Southern China and Vietnam
  • Has a subtle licorice flavor. Is less sweet, more bitter than aniseed
  • Used as a flavoring for the liqueurs Anisette(French), Pernod (French) and Pastis (French) as well as in candy, gum, tea
  • Most often used in marinades, soups, soup stock, poaching liquid and with fish
  • The main ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder

Torshi (makes about 1 ½ quarts)
Middle Eastern pickled fruits and vegetables

6 cups of finely chopped and grated fruit and vegetables (see note below)
2 cups white vinegar, or as much needed to fill the jar
2 T salt
2 small red chile peppers
1 T dried dill weed
1 T dried mint leaves
1 T dried tarragon
1 t caraway seeds, ground
1 t coriander seeds, ground
1 t anise seeds, ground
1 t fennel seeds, ground
1 t dried savory
1 t dried parsley
1 t ginger, ground
½ t black pepper
¼ t turmeric
½ t mustard seed, whole

• Mix all ingredients (except vinegar) together
• Place in a large sterilized jar
• Pour in enough vinegar to cover the mix
• Store in a cool dry place for several days then enjoy.

As you eat the torshi, replace what you’ve taken out of the jar with fresh fruits and vegetables and you will have a continuous supply.

NOTE: Good fruit and vegetable choices are carrots, cauliflower, pickling cucumbers, green beans, celery, garlic, onion, quince and green apple.

Many torshi recipes have eggplant as their main ingredient but I prefer the crispier fruits and vegetables. If you use eggplant, bake it until tender before adding it to the mix.

I've added links to online stores in case you have trouble finding some of the spices. Most spices however should be available in your local grocery stores. To get the best flavor, buy whole spices and grind them yourself.

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