Monthly Archives: January 2016

Anise Seed Substitutes

Anise or Pimpinella anisum is a flowering plant that belongs to the plant family Apiaceae, which is also known as parsley family. The anise plant is native to Southwest Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean region. The seeds of this plant are crescent-shaped, and they are widely used for culinary purposes across the world. Anise seeds or aniseeds are highly valued as a spice for their sweet, licorice-like flavor.

Aniseed Health Benefits

They are not only prized for their rich flavor, but for several health benefits as well. Aniseeds can alleviate gastrointestinal problems by improving digestion. In India, they are usually chewed after having a meal to ensure proper digestion of food. They can be used for alleviating gastrointestinal or digestive ailments, like indigestion, bloating, and gas. They are also used as a home remedy for treating colic in infants.

Anise seeds are known to possess expectorant properties, for which they can facilitate the expulsion of phlegm from the respiratory tract, and thus provide relief in cough and congestion. They contain phytoestrogen, and they can be effective in alleviating menstrual problems and increasing breast milk. Apart from these, they are known to improve memory, stimulate the pancreas, and provide relief in irritable bowel syndrome and headaches.

Replacing Anise Seed
When it comes to substitution, a few other seeds, like star anise, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds can be used to replace aniseeds in a recipe. The flavor of these seeds closely resemble the smell of anise seeds.

Star Anise
Those looking for a less expensive substitute of aniseeds can go for star anise seeds. Star anise is a small evergreen tree, native to China and Vietnam. The seeds of this plant are an important spice used widely in Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian cuisines.

Like aniseeds, they can improve digestion, relieve abdominal pain and headaches, and prevent colic in babies. It is a source of ‘shikimic acid’, which is used to make anti-flu drug or Tamiflu. The seeds contain anethole, the same substance that gives aniseed its flavor. One star anise is equivalent to about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed aniseeds, which should be kept in mind while substituting one for the other.

Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds are an integral part of Indian and Chinese cuisines. They also contain the compound, anethole, which is why their flavor is similar to that of anise seed. However, fennel seeds are more aromatic and sweeter than aniseeds. The medicinal properties of fennel seed are also similar to those of aniseeds.

Caraway Seeds
Caraway or the meridian fennel plant is a member of the same plant family to which the anise plant belongs. Caraway seeds have a delicate, licorice-like flavor, just like the anise seeds. Therefore, they can be used to substitute aniseeds in a recipe.

You can also use anise oil for replacing anise seed. But you have to be a bit careful, as the oil is stronger than the seeds. Moreover, it is always safe and better to use fennel seeds, star anise, and caraway seeds to substitute aniseeds. They are widely used for making savory dishes in Asian countries. But it is also true that no one can completely match the characteristic flavor of anise seeds, for which it is always better to use only aniseeds in recipes like Italian pizzelle, springerle, and aniseed balls or picarones.

Nutmeg Substitute

You have always used nutmeg as a popular flavoring spice for your apple pie recipes, zucchini bread recipes, soups, etc. Have you ever thought what is nutmeg and where is it produced?

Ground Nutmeg Substitute
Nutmeg is usually used in dessert recipes, savory dishes like cheese sauces, soups, meat and potato dishes. The best substitute for ground nutmeg is ground cinnamon. Cinnamon is the most common substitute. You can even use ginger, mace, allspice or cloves as freshly grated nutmeg substitute. Pumpkin pie spice is a great substitute, if you run out of nutmeg while baking an apple pie.

The nutmeg tree is originally from Banda, the largest Molucca (spice island) in Indonesia. It grows on Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree that is now cultivated in West Indies. The nutmeg tree produces not one but two spices, that is, nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is actually the seed of the kernel inside the fruit. The aril on the kernel is mace.

The early importers of nutmeg were the Arabs who were the sole traders of this spice to Europe. When Vasco de Gama reached the Moluccas in 1512, and claimed the island for Portugal, the monopoly of the Arabs decreased. The Dutch claimed rights over the tree and restricted the propagation of the tree only to the islands of Banda and Amboina. The Dutch did all they possibly could to prevent the spread of nutmeg trees around the world. But Pierre Poivre (Peter Piper) a French smuggled the nutmeg and clove seeds to Mauritius, off the east coast of Africa. The British took over the island of Moluccas, and the East Indian islands began cultivating the spice.

Nutmeg was believed to contain many magical powers. People believed carrying nutmeg under the left armpit would help them attract admirers. Some even wore amulets of nutmeg with the belief that it would protect them from boils, broken bones and even rheumatism.

Nutmeg spice is produced from the encased mottled yellow edible fruit. The fruit splits in half and reveals a red covering over the seed. This red covering is aril, which is collected and dried. It is then sold as mace. The dark shiny nut-like pit is nutmeg. The nutmeg is lightly wrinkled, dark brown outside and light brown inside. It has a sweet, aromatic and nutty aroma and is nutty, warm and slightly sweet in flavor.

Nutmeg is used in a number of pudding recipes, custards, cookie recipes and spice cake recipes. You can even add it to tomato soups, slit pea soups, chicken soups, etc. Egg, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, beans, eggplant dishes can also be added with a little nutmeg. It is even included in many middle eastern lamb recipes, Italian mortadella sausages, mulled wines and punches.

Nutmeg is known to aid digestion, help in treating diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. It is thought to increase appetite. The flavor and fragrance of nutmeg contains oils of myristica that contain myristicin which is a poisonous narcotic. It can induce hallucinations, vomiting, epileptic symptoms, even death when consumed in large doses. But do not worry, you won’t experience any of these symptoms, even if you add a generous amount of nutmeg to your recipes.

This was just a brief information on the popular spice nutmeg. It does not have any allergic reactions similar to other nut allergies. It is very rare to find someone who is allergic to nutmeg. If you run out of nutmeg in your kitchen, do not worry, you now know which are the other substitutes.