In Britain cinnamon has been used to enhance puddings for centuries and even when British food was its most bland in the 1940s, 1950s & 1960s, cinnamon was a store-cupboard staple used to spice up an otherwise monotonous diet. In an audit of ‘Good Housekeeping’ cookery books from every decade of the 20th Century, cinnamon is the only spice to feature consistently.
Cinnamon comes from the Cinnamom Verum tree which is grown for two years before being coppiced. Coppicing encourages the growth of numerous, straight shoots. When these are about five foot tall they are harvested for peeling and processing. The outer bark of the shoot is stripped so that the inner bark, the part that eventually becomes the cinnamon we know, is exposed and prised off. These strips form long quills up to about a meter in length which are rolled together into cylinders, trimmed, dried and either cut into short lengths or ground into a powder.
Cinnamon is a spice with a real versatility as it fits happily with both sweet and savoury ingredients. It can be the star of the show, or create harmonious notes as part of a spice blend. It has a great affinity with lamb and adds a North African flavour to kebabs, meatballs and tagines. The flavours of cinnamon also marry well with chocolate and can add a Mexican twist to hot chocolate, or try our recipe for cupcakes with chilli chocolate sauce.
The warm, spicy flavour of cinnamon can also be used to add a new dimension to everyday dishes. Lasagne is great, but sometimes it can turn up on the midweek menu a little too often. Break out the cinnamon and transform a tired recipe into a Greek pastitsio for an easy meal that’s a little bit different. Adding ground cinnamon to a fruit crumble topping creates the ultimate comfort food which will fill your kitchen with its scent as it bakes. Perfect now that the days are getting shorter and the trees have lost their leaves.