Cinnamon stands out of all spices in its “warmth” and ranks as the second often-sued flavouring after pepper in North American kitchens.
Bakers use it liberally in cookies, party hosts in hot drinks, and in some bars now certain cocktails are served with a cinnamon stick to stir! Some bartenders employ cassia, a close relative to cinnamon, but less expensive.
Both cinnamon and cassia are the dries bark of Asian evergreens that belong to the laurel family. Sri Lanka is the major source of cinnamon and Portuguese who settled there did so to exploit the rich resource of cinnamon. The British followed the Portuguese to continue the exploitation started by the Portuguese. The tree is indigenous to the island and its bark is harvested twice a year during the rainy season. The inner bark is bruised, slit and then carefully peeled off to dry; it then curls forming the sticks as we know it.
Cinnamon’s aromatic qualities stand out and compel cooks not only in pastries but also in meat dishes as many Indian, Sri Lankan and Middle Eastern cooks do.
Cinnamon and cassia bark in stick form can be distinguished by the naked eye of an experienced cook, when ground it becomes difficult to differentiate one from another.
In the Bible, cinnamon is mentioned several times and referred to as a n ancient spice. Cinnamon was among the Queen of Sheba’s gifts to King Solomon, and Emperor Nero was chastised for burning a year’s supply in his wife’s funeral pyre. While European cooks relegate cinnamon to the pastry shop, in North America and Middle East it is used as a spice for meats, game and pastries.
This aromatic spice mixes well with sugar, and butter toast sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon is for some very comforting on a wintry morning in a chalet overlooking snowy mountains.
CINNAMON CARROT SOUP
2 bunches of medium carrots (about 10), peeled and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
I celery stalk, sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F
Place oil in a thick-bottomed pot, add onions and sauté for a minute or two.
Add Carrots, celery, cinnamon.
Sauté for one minute. Cook until carrots are soft.
Place the mixture in a food processor, add chicken stock and blend.
Return to clean pot and add milk.
Reheat gently, and adjust seasoning.
If too thick, add a little water to adjust consistency.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu