First of all I think I should clear up any confusion you have regarding these two spices. You can substitute on for the other and it really doesn’t make much difference, although true cinnamon quills are sweeter than cassia bark. There’s a lot of stuff written about how you tell one from the other, but in Britain, if you buy from a shop which has imported things from the subcontinent, cassia is clearly labeled as such, and looks darker, is thicker and a duller colour than actual cinnamon. Cassia is the cheaper spice. Now you know!
Cassia comes from China, Vietnam and Indonesia, whereas cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean. It originated in the subcontinent and was first exported to Egypt as early as 2,000 BC. It came to Europe via Arab traders. The Venetians bought it in Alexandria, and shipped it back to Italy. Later the Portuguese ‘discovered’ Sri Lanka, where it grew in abundance, in the early 16th century.
Pliny the Elder wrote complaining about the cost of cinnamon, as it cost the equivalent of 10 months wages for 327 gr .It was used in cooking and in temples as sweet-smelling incense. Interestingly, modern studies have found that the odour of cinnamon increase cognitive processes.
The ancient Greeks used it to flavour wine, and we still use cinnamon as an ingredient in mulled wine.
The Arabs made up myths about cinnamon to protect its origins from the Europeans. Herodotus got wind of one of these myths and relates that the Phoenix used cinnamon sticks to build its nest, and the brave Arabs would trick the bird by giving it huge pieces of meat which it would take back to its nest. The meat was so heavy that the nest materials would fall to the ground and that’s where cinnamon came from (it’s actually the harvested bark from trees).If you are interested in other stories by Herodotus the historian you should look up his description of a crocodile!
We use cinnamon quills in desserts and cassia in savoury dishes, but it doesn’t really matter all that much, just use whichever bark you have. Cinnamon and cassia can be brought as a ground powder, but we prefer to make our own when we need it from the bark.
Whichever you use is good in teas if you have a cough, cold or flu, especially when mixed with finely chopped ginger root.
MY RICE PUDDING
1cup broken rice
1 litre milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup rose water
2 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp freshly ground cinnamon
Wash the rice well. Put the milk and sugar in a pan and let them boil. Add the rice and cardamoms and cook over a low heat for 2-3 mins. Add the rose water and continue cooking over a low heat, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. When the rice is well cooked and has absorbed some of the liquid, remove from the heat and pour into small dishes. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top of each, and put in the fridge until cold.
This has Taste and is a Treat.