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Also Known as
Dalchini, darchini, dhall cheene
Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. Cinnamon is harvested as strips of bark rolled one inside another. The pale-brown to tan strips are generally thin, the spongy outer bark having been scraped off. The best varieties are pale and parchment-like in appearance.
Cinnamon is very similar to cassia, and in North America little distinction is given, though cassia tends to dominate the market. Cinnamon is also available ground, and can be distinguished from cassia by its lighter colour and much finer powder.
This can be prepared by roasting whole cinnamon and then crushing it into fine powder. A blender may be used for this purpose as cinnamon is hard to be ground into powder in a mortar and pestle. Cinnamon powder is used for marinades, stews, soups or cakes and pies.
How to select
• Cinnamon can be bought whole or in the ground form.
• Whole cinnamon is much more aromatic and flavourful than readymade powders.
• Whole cinnamon should be compact and free of any blemishes.
• Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing cinnamon, try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
• While buying packaged cinnamon powder, check the expiry date and feel for lumpiness (sign of moisture inside the packet).
• The flavour of cinnamon is quite delicate and aromatic, and is thus used more in dessert dishes.
• It is commonly used in cakes and other baked goods, milk and rice puddings, chocolate dishes and fruit desserts, particularly apples and pears.
• It is used in curries and pulaos, and in garam masala.
• It may be used to spice mulled wines, creams and syrups.
• In Mexico, cinnamon is added to tea and brewed.
How to store
• Whole barks of cinnamon will keep their flavour indefinitely.
• Unfortunately it is difficult to grind, so for many recipes the powdered variety will be preferred.
• Like other powdered spices cinnamon loses flavour quickly, so should be purchased in small quantities and kept away from light in airtight containers.
• Recent studies have determined that consuming as little as one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder each day may reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by as much as 20 per cent, in Type II diabetes patients.
• It is mildly carminative and used to treat nausea and flatulence.
• The essential oil of this herb is a potent antibacterial, anti-fungal, and uterine stimulant.
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