Anise in Wonderland


I feel like anise gets a bad rap in my part of the world, so I want to set the record straight and show her some love. Maybe even get you to fall in love with her, too.

 Anise Seed vs. Star Anise

While they both share a name, they are two very distinct plants with very definite flavors and uses.

Anise seed, or Pimpinella anisum, is a plant native to the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asian regions. 

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You’ll recognize her flavor if you’ve ever had black licorice or jelly beans. She’s also the primary flavor in several liquors, including absinthe, Jagermeister, sambuca, and ouzo.

Anise seed has a long history of medicinal use as a carminative to reduce flatulence, to treat menstrual cramps and colic, and toxically as an antiseptic (don’t use it that way). She is a great digestif and sweetens the breath, too.

Star anise, or Illicium verum, is an evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southeast China.

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Her flavor is similar to that of anise seed, and has become a cheaper substitute. Star anise is a primary ingredient in Chinese 5 Spice, pho, biryani, and Masala Chai, and is used frequently in mulled wine and steeped in coffee.

What to Do with Anise


Stir together yogurt, juice of half the lime, 2 cloves garlic, half Prepare the sauce by thoroughly mixing the yoghurt, juice of half a lime, 2 cloves garlic, half of the ginger, turmeric and ground coriander. Refrigerate for 2 hours to let all the flavors meld together.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Over medium heat in a dry pan, toast the spices until lightly browned. Remove the toasted spices and grind. Put them back in the pan with the ghee, red onion, and the remaining garlic and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces and brown for 10 minutes.

Cook the rice in salted boiling water for 10 minutes and drain thoroughly.

Put the meat and spice mixture in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, add the rice on top, then our in the chicken stock and bake for 20 min.

Serve the biryani with the yogurt sauce and fresh herbs.


Anise Drops

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ¾  c. flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ tsp. anise seed

Beat the eggs until they’re frothy. Continuing to beat the eggs, add the sugar gradually and beat for 5 minutes at medium-high speed.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar mixture, and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.

Stir in the anise seed.

Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, shaping the dough into rounds with a spoon if necessary.

Let the cookies stand at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until they’re a golden color on the bottom. You don’t want to brown the cookies.

Remove the cookies from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then loosen them from the parchment with a spatula. Continue to cool the cookies right on the pan.


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