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Cinnamon – of mysterious and ancient origin – has been perfuming and flavouring food from the Mediterranea coast to China for three to four thousand years.  Cinnamon is a spice from the inner bark of the several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum.    Commerically there are two types of cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum or “true cinnamon” originally from Sri Lanka and Cinnamomum cassia or “cassia” from china.  99% of all cinnamon produced in the world comes from 4 countries China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam .

I really don't think I need buns of steel. I'd be happy with buns of cinnamon. ~ Ellen DeGeneres

Today, as in the past, the best Cinnamon continues to comes from Sri Lanka.  During the rainy season, between May and October, cinnamon strippers, naked to the waist and armed with a hatchet can be seen carrying bundles of branches from the cinnamon gardens.  Watching them work is an experience in time travel, the tools and techniques are the same as they where 2000 thousand years ago.  The thick outer bark is removed and discarded and the thinner, fragrant inner bark is exposed and then collected.

In the west, this spice is no loner as popular as it was in the middle ages.  It is all too often restricted to the odd sweet dessert, such as rice pudding or apple cakes.  But the cuisine of the rest of the world tends to embrace the savoy use of cinnamon.  Moroccan cooks use it in their tajines, Indians in many of their Marsala’s to make curries and in China it is one of the ingredients making up their famous “five spice”.

I highly recommend throwing a stick of cinnamon into your next savoury stew to see how it can transform the flavour of any dish.

Kitchen World Tour Day 57: France

Entree: Onion Soup
Main: Cassoulet
Desert: Raspberry Soufflé

I was excited to get to the culinary powerhouse of France. First up was the classic French Onion Soup. I had tried to make this years ago, failed and Kas hated it so this time I was determined to work out why this is so famous. Firstly you need a really good bone stock, so I roasted some bones for an hour in the oven and then simmered these into a stock with vegetables for the next 12 hours. Next the onions: 12 onions slowly caramelised for 2 hours then added to the stock. Then topped with Gruyere cheese mini-toasts made it really special.

Next was the Cassoulet. I first tried Cassoulet in Carcassonne, southern France, and have been in love with it ever since. It is slow cooked bean stew, with duck, crispy pork belly, Toulouse sausages and vegetables. One of the world’s truly great dishes.

Lastly, my first ever attempt at the tricky French dish Soufflé finished of a lovely meal.

Tonight I served up Sienimunakas-kääryle, Rosolli Salad and Pickled Herring.

Sienimunakas-kääryle is a thick omelette rolled with a mushroom filling. Being mushroom lovers this was right up our alley.

Rosolli Salad is traditionally eaten for Christmas dinner so we expected something exceptional. Quite a bit more plain than expected.

Herring is Finland’s favourite fish and apparently there are hundreds of different types of pickles and marinades. It is estimated the Finnish eat around 80,000 tons of it a year, which is about 60kg per person.

All the recipes I cooked tonight are listed here along with a great selection of other popular Finnish dishes.

Next up: France

Kokoda is Fiji’s version of ceviche and the national dish. Raw fish is marinated in lime and lemon juice. The juice “cooks” the fish. Then mixed with fresh salad ingredients, coriander and finished off with coconut milk.

Lovely dish.

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