In Europe cinnamon is the spice of Christmas and mostly used in Christmas decorations and for baking. The evergreen cinnamon tree grows predominantly in Indonesia and China and its fragrant bark is rolled up and left to dry. Then it is cut up into pieces known as cinnamon sticks. Alternatively, it is available as a ground down mid-brown cinnamon powder.
Nowadays it is a must for every kitchen cupboard, but when it first entered the history books around 2500 B.C. it was so expensive that it was only used as an offering to kings and gods. The Egyptian used it as part of the concoction in the mummification process and Pliny the Elder wrote that a Roman pound of cinnamon (roughly 320 pounds or 11.5 oz.) was worth the wages of fifty months’ of labour and therefore unimaginable for daily use.
From 1600 onwards the Dutch started to import cinnamon to Europe and later the British took over Ceylon from the Dutch and with it the cinnamon plantation. Then the East India company imported cinnamon together with tea and made it more accessible for the European taste.
Health benefits: It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Adding a small amount of cinnamon into your daily diet can help people with type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon also helps to fight fungal and bacterial infections, helps with insulin resistance. So, all in all, it has many vital health benefits.
Cinnamon in the kitchen:
This a recipe from Sweden and makes wonderful pre-Christmas treats.
Here is what you need: 3/4 cup milk – 1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast – 1/4 cup white sugar – 1/2 teaspoon salt – 1/4 cup water – 1 egg – 1 cup brown sugar, packed – 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon – 1/2 cup margarine, softened, 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
How to do it:
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in margarine/butter and stir until melted. Let cool the mixture until it is lukewarm.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, softened margarine.
- Roll out dough into a 12×9 inch rectangle. Spread dough with margarine/butter/sugar mixture. Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up in 12 lightly greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Remove from muffin cups to cool.
Cinnamon and apple tea cakes
Ingredients: 75g/2¾oz butter, melted, plus extra for greasing – 100g/3½oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting – 100g/3½oz caster sugar – 1 free-range egg, beaten – ½ tsp almond extract – 60g/2¼oz Bramley apples, peeled and thinly sliced – 15g/½oz flaked almonds – 1 tsp of ground cinnamon – crème fraîche, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
Grease a cupcake tin or add muffin paper into each tin
Pour the melted butter into a large bowl. Add the sugar, flour, egg, cinnamon and almond extract and mix together until combined.
Spoon a little bit of the mixture into each paper and cover a layer of thinnly chopped apple pieces, then add some more batter and repeat the process finishing with a small layer of batter. So batter – apples – batter – apples- batter
Scatter each cake with flaked almonds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until well risen and golden-brown.
Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraîche.
Place the plums into a saucepan and cook until they have dissolved into a compote/jam-like consistency. Then fill into sterilized glass jars and add to your breakfast cereals or use neat with bread or croissants. This is a sugar-free recipe. If you want it a bit sweeter add a touch of Algave honey to it.
Cinnamon recipe for health and beauty:
Cinnamon & sugar lip balm/scrub:
This is a great recipe for the cold winter month. I found it in an old book the other day and thought I use it on myself and absolutely loved it. It tastes nice, the sugar gently scrubs off any flakey bits and the olive oil and honey nourish the lips. If your lips are very chapped you can keep it on for a little while until it has soaked in.
Here is the recipe which takes a few minutes to make:
1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of raw honey, a small pinch of cinnamon.
Mix all ingredients into a paste and let it all settle a bit. Then rub it gently onto your lips. If your lips are very dry and cracked, please make sure you don’t rub too much, instead let it this mixture soak in and then gently take off with a damp cotton. If your lips are not cracked, then you can rub this mixture over them to achieve a peeling effect. Blot dry with a tissue. The rest of the mixture you can fill into an empty pot or jar and repeat the appliation when required.
Following on from my popular blog series
Cooking with herbs
I have decided to start a new series, called Spices Of Life. Over the coming month I will introduce you to the many benefits and recipes. I hope it will help you to discover a world of flavours out there and best of all most of them come with added health benefits.
Bon appetit !
We are kicking this season off with
Turmeric, the spice of good health
fresh turmeric flower
is part of the ginger family and predominately cultivated in India and Southeast Asia. The fresh turmeric plant has pretty flowers and the fruit is ginger- like.
In order to make the fresh turmeric last longer, the plant is first boiled for 40 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, finally it is ground into the orange-yellow powder that most of us know as turmeric. It has a warm, pepper-like earthy flavour and it an essential part of many curries. Its vibrant colour is also used as a fabric dye.
Turmeric’s best known health benefits are that it is anti-flamatory and a potent antioxidant.
Read more about turmeric’s health benefits and supplements
Turmeric in the kitchen:
So here are easy to cook and tasty recipes:
Scrambled eggs with turmeric:
A great way to start the day. You will need:
½ garlic clove, finely chopped – 100g spinach leaves -4 large eggs – 50ml coconut milk- 2 tsp grated turmeric – 2 slices sourdough bread, toasted
- Put the coconut oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat. Lightly fry the garlic, add the spinach leaves and wilt for a few mins – add a splash of water if they stick.
- Whisk the eggs with the coconut milk and turmeric. Season well. Add to the pan with the spinach and stir continuously for 5-8 mins until the scrambled eggs are at the desired consistency. Serve on slices of toasted sourdough.
300g basmati rice – 25g butter -1 large onion, finely sliced -1 bay leaf -3 cardamom pods -small cinnamon stick- 1 tsp turmeric- 4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks -4 tbsp curry paste – 85g raisins – 850ml chicken stock- 30g coriander (½ chopped, ½ leaves picked) and 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds to serve.
- Soak 300g basmati rice in warm water, then wash in cold until the water runs clear.
- Heat 25g butter in a saucepan and cook 1 finely sliced large onion with 1 bay leaf, 3 cardamom pods and 1 small cinnamon stick for 10 mins.
- Sprinkle in 1 tsp turmeric, then add 4 chicken breasts, cut into large chunks, and 4 tbsp curry paste. Cook until aromatic.
- Stir the rice into the pan with 85g raisins, then pour over 850ml chicken stock.
- Place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and bring to a hard boil, then lower the heat to a minimum and cook the rice for another 5 mins.
- Turn off the heat and leave for 10 mins. Stir well, mixing through 15g chopped coriander. To serve, scatter over the leaves of the remaining 15g coriander and 2 tbsp toasted almonds.
Turmaric for Health and Beauty:
Surprisingly turmeric is also a fantastic skin cleanser and should be used by anybody who suffers from psoriasis, dry skin, dark circles under the eyes and wrinkles.
Here is a face mask I found that will help you with a clear complexion
Turmeric Face Mask for Glowing Skin compiled by Dr. Axe
Total Time: 10 minutes
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of organic, raw, local honey
- ½ teaspoon milk or yogurt
- [optional] 1 drop lemon essential oil or fresh lemon juice for additional skin brightening
- Wash face and hands first to remove impurities and any make-up.
- In a small bowl or jar, mix the turmeric powder with the honey, apple cider vinegar, milk or yogurt and optional lemon oil. Try to get a consistency that will stick to your face. Be careful not to make it too thin as it may drip.
- Apply the mask carefully avoiding your eyes.
- Allow the mask sit on your face for 15–20 minutes then rinse with warm water.
- If you have any leftover, you can cover and leave in the fridge for your next application.
- Apply twice a week for best results.