Star Anise

Posted on October 17, 2011

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I have just learned an interesting fact: 85% of the world’s star anise is grown in Guangxi (this is the province in which I am living). Star Anise is a major ingredient in the antiviral Tamiflu. Good news, I can now cuddle up to pigs and poultry and rest assured that should I catch H1N1 or R2D2 (or whatever those various animal influenzas were), treatment will be cheap and available.

A photo I took in Hanoi a couple of months ago

In celebration of this delightful fact (and because star anise is a delicious – and an underused foodstuff) I have decided to provide you with two recipes. The first is Chinese: Tea Eggs – a typical breakfast food or midmeal snack. The second – Star Anise Brownies – just looks delicious and is relevant because I baked brownies for my colleagues last week. To watch people who have never eaten brownies before eat some particularly good ones (if I don’t say so myself) fresh out of the oven was a sight to be seen! I only wish I’d had my camera. I have never seen a whole batch of brownies disappear so quickly, the shrieks of delight still echo in my ears!

Please try them both and report back to me.

Tea Eggs:

8 eggs
1 – 2 tbsp black tea
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
3 star anise
1 tsp coarse salt
120 ml dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp crystal salt

Put the eggs into a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then drain and refresh in iced water. Now carefully tap the eggs on your work surface to crack the shells on all sides.
Put the eggs back into the pan and add the tea, cinnamon sticks, star anise, coarse salt, soy sauce and 1 litre water. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
Crush the crystal salt slightly in a mortar and mix with the sesame seeds and five-spice powder. Shell the eggs and serve on small plates with a little of the spice mixture.
Tip: The more cracks there are in the shell, the better the marbled effect will be.

(recipe courtesy of the sbs food website)

Star anise chocolate brownies

Use a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar to grind whole star anise into a fine powder. Makes 12.

120g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
120g dark chocolate, about 70%, broken into pieces
120g caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
130g plain flour
½ tsp finely grated orange zest
1½ tsp ground star anise
Good pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter a 20cm square brownie tin and line the bottom and two sides with a strip of baking parchment that’s long enough to hang over the sides (to make it easier to lift the brownie out of the tin).

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate, and stir until smooth. Add the sugars, leave for a couple of minutes, then add the vanilla and beat well. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour, orange zest, star anise and salt.

Pour the mix into the tin, smooth and bake for 20 minutes, until the top is crackled and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Plunge the base of the tin into a bowl of iced water to stop it cooking, then leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, lift out and finish cooling on a rack.

(this one is from that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall guy from the River Cottage who is championing vegetarianism at the moment – good on him)

A large pot of small pots of soup

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