‘True Cinnamon’ is one of our favourite spices. It’s warm and fragrant and has a canny way of bringing a sweetness to savoury dishes and introducing a savoury note to sweet desserts.
Frustratingly, a lot of the cinnamon on the market is in fact ground cassia bark – which has sharper, more astringent notes than true cinnamon. It’s easiest to spot the difference when buying cinnamon sticks or ‘quills’. Cassia has a single furl of bark, while true cinnamon has lots of delicate layers almost like a cross section of mille feuille.
It’s hard to grind cinnamon sticks at home. They’re best for infusing flavours when slow-cooking. Cinnamon sticks introduce wonderful layers of flavour when cooked in a korma, tagine or pho. They might be used to flavour mulled alcohol and pickling liquor, or for spiking poached fruits and compote.
Growing cinnamon doesn’t only require the right climate, but this labour-intensive crop requires a high level of expertise. It’s why we source ours from Sri Lanka – where cinnamon has been cultivated for centuries.
There, cinnamon trees are chopped back to stumps after two years of growth, and are then covered so they start to grow like a bush. The inner bark is pulled out of the young shoots and then laid out to dry in the sun where they curl in delicate quills.
Ground cinnamon should be stored in a dark, airtight container, to help keep its potent flavour.
In a comparative study among 26 spices, cinnamon showed the highest antioxidant activity. Using cinnamon can also help you cut down on sugar due to its naturally sweet taste. For more information, click HERE.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Ceylon cinnamon, True cinnamon
COOK THIS SPICE
Chetna's Chicken & Chickpea Curry
Georgie Hayden's Classic Moussaka