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 tumeric’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.
Here is some vital information I found on the Biodynamic Association website that explains a lot about biodynamic bee-keeping
Like humans, bees are creatures of warmth and maintain a constant temperature in their hive. This warmth helps bees to create wax for their comb, maintain their colony, and keep it healthy. It is also through this warmth that the colony finds its identity, each bee and bee activity integral to the whole. No single part, not even the queen, can be seen as isolated from the whole.
Modern beekeeping – what’s wrong?
As the Natural Beekeeping Trust explains, bees were held sacred in all ancient cultures. Their survival was assured over thousands of years. In the last 150 years this has changed dramatically.
Much of modern beekeeping, like intensive farming, is geared to maximum production, and, like modern agriculture, its husbandry relies on chemical solutions to man-made problems. This invariably results in exploitation, as the essential needs of bees are disregarded.
As the Natural Beekeeping Trust also explains, the systematic exploitation of bees has seen a huge increase in disease. Bees in captivity can suffer from parasitic infections and more than 20 viruses; many of these can infect honeybees and hoverflies. International trading in queen bees has resulted in the importation of exotic diseases. Added to this, the routine suppression of bees’ natural reproduction (by swarming) in favour of artificial breeding, practised for more than a hundred years, has resulted in impoverished bee genetics.
Here is how you can help ! The best way is to start planting relevant plants that attract and keep bees. These are explained in this excellent booklet called Bees in crisis .
It is time for us all to do our bit to save these wonderful animals and pollinators for generations to come.
Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series
In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.
Winter rocket – barbarea vulgaris
This herb grows about 30 to 60cm (12-24 inches) tall and has shiny, dark green leaves. Between April and July it displays clusters of bright yellow flowers.
This herb shows a particular tolerance to beetles and moth and is the home of choice for many butterfly species. It is often planted on the side of a vegetable patch to encourage pollinators and to make sure the ‘ordinary crop’ is left alone.
Because of the superb flower display, this herb is often sown as a decorative plant and only few know that it is very useful in the kitchen.
How to cultivate it
Winter rocket is easily grown and the leaves are usually harvested before the flowers come out, so up until April. Add these aromatic leaves to your normal salads or steam them with a knob of butter and garlic as a side dish.
In late winter/early spring your body needs vitamins and winter rocket provides you with lot of vitamin C. In fact together with sloe and rosehip, winter rocket is one of the great, home-grown providers of vitamin C. Other health benefits include: blood cleanser and helps to maintain a good functioning digestion.
Here are a few recipes how to use winter rocket
1. Mixed leaf salad bowl
Ingredients: A small head of lettuce (chopped), two handfuls of winter rocket, 2 fresh carrots (cut into small pieces), 4 medium sized tomatoes and a few radishes. Wash and cut to size and then put them into a large salad bowl.
For the dressing: 6 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp wine or apple vinegar, salt, pepper, 2 glove of garlic and a bunch of parsley.
Make the dressing in a separate jar and keep it apart. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix it in with two folks, so the salad is well-covered in dressing.
Tip: Only use as much salad and dressing as you will eat. If you keep them apart, this salad will keep well for a day or two. If the salad leaves start to wilt, then soak them for an hour in vinegar water (a bowl full of cold water and add a tbsp. of cider of wine vinegar). In an hour, the salad will be crisp again.
2. ‘Pick me up’ – tea
Boil 3 cups of water and put them into a jug, then add a handful of winter rocket and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Drain the herbs and fill the tea into a thermos flask, sip throughout the tea. This is a great vitamin C booster and will help you with your concentration, so a ‘must try’ for everybody in the need of a natural boost.
Ileen Macpherson (1898-1984) was born in August 1898 in Australia. She attended Clyde School in St. Kilda (Melbourne) and as a young adult became increasingly interested in natural ways of producing food.
This interest brought her to regular Anthroposophy meetings, based on the early biodynamic philosophy by Rudolf Steiner . Anthroposophy is a philosophy that combines natural science (such as biology) and the intellectually comprehensible spiritual world. It is rooted in German idealism and mysticism, but its essential message is respect for nature, development of the human being in an individual manner rather than a mass-educational approach und the connection of our
micro universe to the universe as a whole. So according to Rudolf Steiner it makes sense to watch what the universe is doing (for example Full Moon and other celestial aspects in the sky) and connect them to tasks such as planting, weeding, turning the soil and else. Seeds of this philosophy are now found in ethnical banking, the Waldorf education and alternative medicine.
One of the speakers at these early Anthroposophy meetings in Melbourne was Ernesto Genoni, an Italian citizan who arrived in Australia in May 1926. A few years later Ernesto and Mrs Anne Macky started the Anthoroposophical Society and it is through these meetings at the Anthroposophical Society that Ileen meets Ernesto.
A year later the pair have plans to start the first biodynamic farm in Australia and they call this farm Demeter Farm (named after the the Demeter society, a brand that is still around today and that upholds the quality of biodynamic farming. Its name was taken from Demeter, the Greek goddess of grain and fertility). There Ileen and Ernesto perfected crop rotation, soil enrichment and the study of healthy plants and all organisms that are connected to the farm. The Biodynamic agriculture is a cycle where every part reinforces the entity as a whole. For example grass clipping and rotten food are turned into compost and this compost again fertilises the land where cows feed on its grass. In turn the cow’s horns and manure are then used to enrich the soil which then produces healthy plants and fruit trees.
In March 1935 the Demeter Farm in Dandenong, Victoria, finally opens and produced good quality biodynamic food on 40acres of land for over two decades. The main crop was fruit, vegetables and milk. Soon after the opening Ileen and Ernesto found a group called the ‘Experimental Circle of Anthroposophical Farmers and Gardeners’.
This group soon becomes known for all ways of alternative farming in Australia and even Alfred Meebold comes to stay over for a fortnight. But just as things are going so well, tragedy strikes. Ileen, a very active person in her early years and busy with long days farming and milking cows, became weaker and weaker. She still carried on as usual, but her conditions deteriorates and soon her legs gave way. In 1943 she was admitted to Epworth hospital where she spent on and off the next three years.
This was a bitter blow for Ernesto. Not only did he now have to carry out all the hard work on the farm, but he also had planned to go with Illen to Europe to join the Biodynamic movement, but all these plans were now nil and void.
In the end Ernesto stayed at the farm at at Ileen’s bedside. When she was finally released in 1946 she would be confided to a wheel chair for the rest of her life. The cause was later revealed as pernicious anaemia (a lack of vitamin B12). Nowadays this condition is easy to cure, but in the 1940ies it often led to the patient’s death or life in a wheelchair.
Although Ileen tried her best with Ernesto to keep the farm alive, in the end her failing health was getting too much for Ernesto and the farm was sold in 1955. Ernesto started painting (the picture of Ileen above was painted by him) and Ileen, although now unable to practise it, never let go of the biodynamic ideology. After her death in 1984 the Ileen Macpherson Trust still supports Anthroposophic causes in Australia.
In my view natural is always best and now that the spring clean is round the corner here are a few top tips for
‘organic house cleaning’.
1. Toothpaste: Who would have thought, but brushing your taps with toothpaste will make them shine again. It is also great for removing watermarks from wooden furniture. Just put some tooth paste on a cloth and rub the wooden surface. Leave to soak in for a while and then polish off. Normally the watermarks should have completely disappeared. I suggest you try a small corner before attacking the whole of your furniture, especially antique furniture.
If you have a piano and the keys have gone yellow, just brush them with a toothbrush and tooth paste and they will be white again, just like your teeth.
Use toothpaste to repair CDs or DVDs with minor scratches. Dab some toothpaste on the back of the CD or DVD and gently spread in a circular motion. Delicately rinse with water and a tissue.
2. Baking powder: Sprinkle baking powder into your sink and leave them for around 20 minutes. Then put white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the baking powder with the vinegar, finally rinse off with warm soapy water and your sink will sparkle again.
Another good use for baking soda is when you burnt food in a pot or pan. Don’t scratch the surface, by trying to scrub the burnt food off. Just sprinkle some baking soda into the pan and add some water and bring to the boil. The burnt food will come off quite easily and you can wash pan and pot as normal. In severe cases you have to repeat the baking powder boiling a few times. But it will save you many pots which would have been useless or scratch otherwise.
If your oven needs a good clean combine 5 teaspoons of baking soda, 5 drops of washing up liquid and some water to create a paste. Coat the inside of the oven with this paste and leave overnight. The next morning again spray it with vinegar and leave for another 20 minutes. Then you can sponge it off with water.
Have you got stains on your glass hob? Start by mixing baking soda and water in a small dish. Spread the paste over the stained area and let it to set for 10 minute, then clean it off with soapy water. Or pour lemon juice/white vinegar over the baking soda paste to release tougher stains. Use a dry cloth to wipe off any remaining streaks.
3. White vinegar: I can’t believe when I look into some kettles what amount of limestone they contain. This is not good for the kettle and it is certainly not good for the body, as take in limescale with every cup of tea. So it is important (not just for your kettle’s health, but also for your health) to descale your kettle, coffee machine, egg cookers, etc. on a regular basis. The best way to do this is to fill your kettle with white wine vinegar and leave overnight. Then bring it to boil and discard. Now fill the kettle with fresh water, boil and discard again (to get rid of any smells). Now the kettle is ready to use again and you can keep it for much longer !
You can also descale your taps and shower heads by placing kitchen towels soaked in white vinegar over them, again leave overnight and rinse off in the morning. Some stone surfaces like marble or granite don’ like vinegar, so if in doubt always test on a small corner.
4. Lemon: Dried on food that won’t easily wipe off inside your microwave? Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice into a glass bowl containing half a cup of water and pop the squeezed lemons in as well.
Warning: never place anything metal inside a microwave. Place the bowl inside your microwave and turn it on for 3 minutes. After the ping, leave it for a further 5 minutes before removing the bowl. Now wipe clean the food splashes with a damp cloth for a sparkling interior.
To make your place smell fresh and clean take a small saucepan, fill to about two-thirds with water, slice a lemon and add a few sprigs of rosemary.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla extract and let it simmer for a marvellous smell around your house.
5. Cream of tartar: to get rid of any stickiness on your extractor fan and cooker hood mix a tablespoon of cream of tartar and a few drops of water. Rub the solution onto the area firmly with a sponge and wipe with a damp paper towel.
6. Cola: Put 750ml of the fizzy drink into your kettle and boil it. This should be sufficient for most kettles but make sure you don’t fill beyond than the ‘max’ level.Pour away the hot liquid and rinse thoroughly with water. Repeat this until the limescale has gone. Personally I don’t think it is as efficient as white vinegar, but it will do for mild lime scale. Colas are also brilliant toilet cleaners, just pour some cola into your toilet and leave for a while whilst you clean the toilet seat and other surrounding. Your toilet will sparkle again.