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Cooking with anise seeds, or aniseed, can be a fun and versatile experience because there are numerous things that can be done with the fruit of the anise plant. Although creating dishes with these seeds is relatively straightforward, following certain tips for cooking with the herb can help draw out the flavor from it without overpowering the other flavors in the food. Among the best tips for cooking with anise seeds are grinding them just before using them, adding them to a recipe early in the process and using just the right amount. There are also plenty of ideas regarding both sweet and savory dishes that can be enhanced with this herb. Some people may not have thought of adding the seeds to certain foods and recipes that the strong licorice-like flavor actually complements.
To get the most out of the herb’s fragrant aroma and strong flavor, one should buy the seeds whole and ground them just before using them instead of buying seeds that have been already ground. If they are being added to a stew, soup or curry, they should be added quite early in the recipe so that the other ingredients have time to absorb the flavor. A cook can ensure that the flavor doesn’t overpower the rest of the food by using the seeds sparingly. Only the amount stated in the recipe should be used, if not a little less. As a general rule, half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of ground anise seeds should be used for a batch of two dozen cookies, and one tablespoon (14.8 ml) should be used for a standard curry recipe.
Apart from cookies and curries, a number of other dishes frequently feature anise seeds. In Europe, they are used in a lot of confections, such as aniseed balls. French recipes sometimes combine aniseed with the relatively sweet taste of carrots. In Scandinavia, the seed is commonly added to bread dough to spice it up, and in Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the anise seed is one of the staple herbs found in curry.
Anise seeds are regularly confused with a number of other herbs, spices and vegetables. Three of the most common examples of this are star anise, licorice and fennel, which, in their own ways, all bear striking similarities to the anise seed. Star anise and fennel are sometimes even used as substitutes for aniseed. Licorice, like anise seeds, is commonly featured in candy.
Despite the name, star anise is a completely different fruit, coming from the Chinese plant Illicium verum as opposed to the originally Mediterranean Pimpinella anisum, as the anise seed does. Although licorice tastes similar to aniseed, licorice is actually the root of the plant Glycyrrihiza glabra. Not only do fennel seeds taste similar to anise seeds, fennel bulb leaves also bear a strong resemblance to those of the anise plant.