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August 25, 2012 at 12:57

Such an enigmatic spices!

A painter draws its pictures with paints and the cook with food. Sometimes they both need some special last stroke and then the cook like a painter can do an exact and necessary stroke. Spices help him!
It takes time and experience to know well the great variety of spices. Did you know that some of spices can whet appetite, soothe and even cure? Spices – is a completely vegetable additive to food. You should distinguish spices from seasoning. These are two opposite terms. We don’t eat spices separately from the food while seasoning can be an independent dish. Spices shade taste of the dish bringing nuances while seasoning creates the taste. Now let’s know the secret of cumin, coriander, laurel leaf and badiane (star anise).


The name coriander derives from Greek word “Koris” that means stinkbug, because immature plant smells disgusting like a stinkbug. However at the end of drying period, decyl aldehyde that gives such a smell almost effloresces and at the gestation period seeds smell just a little. Coriander leaves are also called kinza. It has strong smell and it is eatable in salads and used as a spices to soup and meat dishes. Coriander leaves and seeds are parts of one and the same plant, but they are so different by taste and smell.
Coriander seeds are the most popular spice in the world. It was found at the encampment of primitive people 8000 years ago. Coriander was recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen. Romans brought coriander to the Central and West Europe. Coriander has circular seeds 3-4 mm in a diameter. The color is from green yellow to light brown. Flavour is intense, warm and wooden. The taste is sweet bitter with a light citrus shade. Coriander seeds are put into bread, baking, desserts, pickled products, marinade, meat and vegetables, ragout, soups and even alcoholic drinks. Because of the cheap price it is used in ready mix most of all.
The lighter and bigger coriander seeds the better. It is very important the time of ingathering. Immature seeds have the maximum quantity of essential oils.
This spice cures a lot of diseases: cough, chest pain, fever, dysentery, all types of stomach diseases and indigestion. Coriander is one of the main aphrodisiacs.
Boil 2 liters of water; add 3, 5 tablespoons of coriander seeds. Boil 1, 5 hour. Then add 1 milled date and 1 orange peel. Boil more 15 minutes, then cool and filter it. Drink small portions to obviate insomnia and clean the body from heavy metals, and also wash off the mouth when you have toothache and throat ache.


Ancient times in Europe cumin was considered as a symbol of greed and meanness. Nowadays it has changed. In the middle Ages there was a superstition which told that cumin saves chicken and lovers from wandering. Also there was a belief that if fiancé and bride kept cumin seeds all the ceremony they would be very happy.
Cumin is the dried seed, a member of the parsley family from Middle East and North Africa.
Nowadays it is cultivated all over the Asia, Mediterranean and Transcaucasia. As a fennel immature cumin is gathered in umbels and then dried up. Seeds have spin forms 2-6 mm length green grey or dark grey colored. Aroma develops after frying on the dry pan or after grinning.
There are some types of cumin, but their flavour is not so different, except the type grown in India and Afghanistan - black mountain cumin with more soft smoked smell.
Cumin is very popular in the Middle Asia. It is certainly put in plov. It comes in many mixtures, such as garam masala, curry, or zaatar. Cumin is used in Eastern, Mexican and North-African cuisine as often as clack pepper in European cuisine. It gives interesting taste to the simplest vegetable dishes; combines perfectly with game, meat and eggs dishes. In Europe it is used in sausages, cheese (in particular, the Dutch Edam and Muenster Germany). In India milled cumin and its oil are put in yogurt drinks (lassi) and non-alcoholic cocktails.
Mash some seeds with fingers before buying it – fresh seeds aroma appears immediately. Qualitative cumin has perfect seeds without other admixture. Smell of dry cumin is weak but very tasty. Mountain cumin meets rarely and costs 5 times more expensive. Milled cumin should be hermetically packed.
Fried or milled cumin is usually used in any dishes. Also it is used like a potion (1 teaspoon of cumin to one glass of hot water; then let it draw). This potion stimulates appetite, regulates digestion, and cures migraine provoked by gastric diseases.

Anise tree (badiane)

Liquor and spices producers gave way to despair when in 2005 anise tree almost disappeared from the world market. But fortunately the problem was gone. It came out that Swiss bought all the stock of anise tree to produce an effective remedy from flu. Pharmacy found synthetic replacement to anise tree and it continued to give a joy with its culinary qualities.
Anise tree relates to magnolia - evergreen tree from Eastern India. Now it is cultivated mostly in China, Laos, and Philippines and even on Jamaica. It is practically impossible to find anise tree in a wilderness. It is one of the most beautiful spices - neat eight seven-pointed star dark brown colors with small round shiny seeds inside. The taste is sweet, very similar to anise, but not so saccharine and the aroma is stronger. Anise tree is used in desserts especially in combination with chocolate and some kinds of citruses. It is good to put some anise tree seeds in meat or vegetable ragout. If you put some seeds inside the duck or chicken the dish will be more delicate to taste soaking in the smell of this spice. It is necessary ingredient in North Vietnam when you cook beef soup. You can put anise tree seeds to the home made jam and it will not be crystallized more long time. Fresh milled badiane is used in cakes, cookies, pies mixing with flour. In Thailand badiane is the obligatory component in sweet cold tea with milk and ice. Many alcoholic drinks made of anise indeed are done from badiane because it is cheaper.
It is better to gather full seeds because milled seeds loose their aroma faster. The bigger seeds the more qualitative spice. It is desirable seeds have shiny deep red brown color.
Anise tree is a good carminative and diuretic spice. Put a small part of a seed under the tongue to freshen your breath. Because of the shikimiс acid anise tree helps to cure virus diseases and strong cold-related diseases with a cough. Prepare badiane syrup: milled 12-12 seeds and fill it up with hot water. Boil on high fire until liquid will not steam out on 2/3 part. Filter it and put some honey. You should take 2 teaspoons every 2-3 hours during cold and flu.

Bay leaf (laurel leaf).

Ancient Greeks and Romans used laurel twigs to make a wreath for winners. Olympic Games champions wore garland of bay leaves. The word Bachelor means ‘bay berry ‘- successfully graduated education. In ancient Greece poets and students who won academic prizes wore laurel wreathes. Indeed thanks to laurel there were created names like Laurie, Lars, Laurens, and Lawrence. Californian and grateful laurel exists millions years. Each tree usually lives 300 years and grows 18-20 meters in high. The homeland of the Californian laurel tree is South America, and for Grateful laurel is the southern part of Europe and Mediterranean cost. It is necessary to dry leaves to make a spice. Fresh bay leaf is of dark green color, one side is shiny and another is mat, it has an oval form with a sharp edge 2.5 – 8 cm in length. The color of dried leaf depends on how long it was dried out: olive color means recent time, light khaki means long time and yellow brown means very long time. Chewing the leaf you will have bitter taste and a light taste of camphor. Californian laurel has bigger leaves and strong aroma than Grateful laurel has.
In Asia milled laurel is more often used in different spicy mixtures. On the southern part of Russia it is used in apple and pear jams; in the East it is used making herbal tea. It gives a nice taste to different soups, pickling, stew vegetables and even fruit soups. Bay leaf can spoil disgusting smell of boiled cabbage, muddy smell of catfish and pike. It is desirable to put the bay leaf while cooking and take it a few minutes before the end of cooking not to give the dish bitter taste.
Try to choose laurel leaf with a bright olive color. Leaves with broken edges loose aromatic oil very fast.
Potion of laurel leaf (3-4 leaves for one glass of hot water draw for 10 minutes) lowers the blood sugar level, cures gastritis and migraine. Laurel pasta helps from some types of fungous disease. Put some leaves into the bath and it helps to cure cold faster. And also laurel fights against moth and ants.

Now you know secrets of these four famous spices and some useful potions. Add them to your recipes collection for your health and body. Use all advantages of badiane, laurel, cumin and coriander. Go forward towards understanding of mystery spices usage!


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