The liquorice character of star anise always elicits a strong reaction in my spice classes. Some love it. Others loathe it. There isn’t much in between. But in this recipe, it’s the sweetness of star anise that will really shine through in the end result.
I use star anise in any dish that will benefit from a deep well of rich sweetness. As a structural spice, star anise will work to support the surrounding spice.
In this dish, star anise will draw forward the sweetness in the tomato, contrast with the grit and resonant heat of cracked black pepper, play into the rich umami quality of the lamb fat, and connect warmth to the astringent quality of garlic and onion. If you do want to emphasise the liquorice quality of star anise in a dish, add a little aniseed - ⅓ tsp is enough.
Top star anise tips
• Star anise is a strong spice that likes to be met. To keep it from overwhelming a dish, pair with dried bay leaf, black pepper and a little ground fenugreek.
• One or two whole star anise popped in a pan of morning porridge is a warming start to the day.
• Got a winter dessert recipe that calls for a ginger syrup? Add star anise to the syrup recipe and taste as ginger takes on an even deeper, spicier, sweeter warmth.