From its anise-like flavor and star shape. Its Chinese name means eight points. This star-shaped spice is the fruit of the Indian almond, an evergreen tree. Its fruits are harvested before maturity and left to ripen on racks. Once ripe, they take on a rust color and each point contains an amber-colored seed used as a spice.
The Chinese like to suck on a point of the star to ensure fresh breath. Though its flavor has long been ignored in the West, chefs in America and Europe are rediscovering this spice.
Used for its diuretic, carminative and digestive properties, it is also said to cure flatulence!
Buying and storing star anise
Keeps very well when whole. Powdered star anise is more delicate - it is better to grind it yourself, even if in very small quantities, or else check its flavor before buying it.
Even if star anise and anise are very different in appearance, their flavor (licorice) is more or less the same.
Use in small amounts to flavor meat or braised dishes. Two star anise are generally enough to flavor a dish for four people. Can be used whole or in pieces.
A star anise placed into a duck or chicken before roasting gives a spicy and sophisticated flavour.
Use to flavour cakes, cookies, or ice cream - or even better, a sorbet, because of its digestive properties.
It is often used in distilleries to flavor various liquors, like Pernod, Ricard, anisette, ouzo, etc.
Star anise cream: reduce 500 ml of crème fraîche with 3 star anise until only a tablespoon of highly flavored cream is left. When cold add a little more crème fraîche and serve with a sorbet of fresh white cheese and basil.
In a sauce for pan-fried trout: reduce 1 part vinegar with 7 parts veal stock; add 2 ml of honey and two star anise; let infuse 5 minutes.
Chicken terrine in jelly: cook in a casserole chicken breasts, limes, fennel bulb, celery stalks, a little fresh ginger, cloves, star anise and shallots. Chill and put into a lemon-flavored gelatin.
In India its use is widespread, particularly in the spice mixtures of Kashmir and Chettinad - curry, garam masala.
Traditionally associated with Asian cooking, especially Chinese - five-spice powder, duck legs braised with bok choy, star anise, juniper and nutmeg, pork dishes, sautéd vegetables, simmered dishes made with soy, as well as with fish, shellfish and squash.
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