This ancient spice is the inner bark of an evergreen laurel native to Sri Lanka.
The Roo Sisters

1 Aug 2013 - 11:44 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2015 - 4:03 PM


The inner bark of an evergreen laurel native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices. In ancient times, it was prized for its sweet fragrance and preservative qualities (there’s evidence it was used for embalming the pharaohs, and the Bible mentions Moses used it) and by the Middle Ages was coveted by the European ruling classes, who liked their food strongly seasoned. Along with pepper and nutmeg, cinnamon was a status symbol. While the trees grow up to 7m high in the wild, in plantations the small bushes are regularly cut back to encourage new shoots. The best varieties of cinnamon come from these young cultivated shoots. The outer bark and lining are scraped away and the remaining bark left to dry, which is when it curls and rolls up. Several long quills are hand-rolled together, trimmed, graded and tied into bales. Once thought of as an aphrodisiac, cinnamon has proven medicinal qualities thanks to its cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, which can fight bacteria and fungus, soothe muscles and improve circulation.


Use cinnamon in ...

Cakes and biscuits, milk and rice puddings, chocolate dishes and fruit desserts, curries and pilaus, lamb tagines and moussaka. It’s included in the spice blends ras el hanout and garam masala, and is popular in drinks such as mulled wine, tea and hot chocolate. Whole quills will keep their flavour for a year or so, and “true” cinnamon can be ground at home using a spice mill. Thicker, harder, darker cassia is best bought pre-ground. Buy powdered cinnamon or cassia in small quantities and keep in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.



Cinnamon goes with ...

Milk, cream, eggs, rice, couscous, chocolate, ricotta, yoghurt, oranges, apples, pears, apricots, peaches, dried fruit, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, chilli, saffron, cardamom, honey, rosewater, red wine, tea.