Is it possible to love a flavor – I mean really really can’t live without it!! – but hate it in one particular form?
The title of this blogpost gives away the answer: I love anise. Amongst others, I love it in hot milk. But not in …
So let’s talk some anise.
I love it.
I LOVE IT!
In all its forms, varieties and related ingredients.
All, but one.
I love finely sliced fennel in a salad. Roasting or baking it for my favorite risotto. Since Jamie Oliver introduced me to fennel seeds I always have it within reach. In particular when eating pork, or – even better – wild boar. Oh man, I still can taste that stew I ate in Toscany, Italy over ten years ago now.
And do you remember my love for that special spice mix in the wonder jar? Yup, it contains fennel seeds. Five spice mix also, making it a favorite when cooking Asian style food.
On my morning bread, I love ‘gestampte muisjes’ (will come back to that one!) and since Heston Blumenthal told me so, I add star anise when I’m baking my onions. And when poaching some pears.
Let’s not forget about tarragon, the leafy herb that’s great with fish, or in a salad with Parmesan cheese and grapes. I adore Jamie Oliver for introducing me to that dish as well!
But there is one way that I absolutely hate it.
When anise is in alcohol.
And boy, I tried it. Pastis, ouzo, raki, Pernod and recently even absinthe. I just can’t get myself to love it. I’m pretty sure it’s the alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong, I love alcohol. In a good beer, a nice glass of wine and something stronger when needed.
But not when it’s flavored with anise.
Strong alcoholic drinks can be hearthy and warming, but only when it has some strong flavors to counterbalance. Not with the thin, airy smell and taste of the anise. It just can’t do justice to its soft, kind of cold flavor.
I guess it’s me, and is my remembrance of that one drink I that started my love for anise that is to blame. That drink I can have every night, weeks in a row, just before I go to bed.
Hot anise milk.
It even has is own Wikipedia-page in English! Since I discovered it as a student I have those periods that I keep on drinking it. Until it stops. For a year, a few years even. But I’ll always come back to it.
It’s warming, mildly fragrant, sweet and most of all it’s comforting. For centuries the Dutch have told each other the drink will help you fall asleep. In cold winter nights, when it’s freezing both outside as inside your bedroom, this mild spicy warming drink will help you forget that. In our modern heated bedrooms with by electric blankets warmed beds we don’t need a hot booster, as scientists have proven.
I couldn’t care less last Thursday night, when I was lying in my bed, awake at 4 am. Jet-lagged from a long flight back home to California after two emotionally and physically exhausting weeks in the old country. I got up and made my version of this Dutch classic.
I wish I could prove the scientists wrong, but couldn’t go back to sleep. Instead I started writing this blogpost, cleared my bags, emptied my email box and saw it getting light through the blinds.
Hot anise milk
In the Netherlands you can buy lovely small
cubes sachets to make anise milk. They contain sugar and anise extract and you just mix them with some hot milk. Perfect to DIY! My first version is great in itself, but I feel an urge to experiment. By crushing the seeds, adding fennel seeds and/or star anise as well. Anyhow, just try this version first and let me know if you share my love for it!
1 mug of milk
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat the milk. Pour the milk in a pan. I always feel the urge to add an extra splash. Omit if you can resist. Heat it with the anise seeds and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is warm.
Sieve and enjoy.
Tip: If you have those paper tea bags that you can fill yourself, you can use those. Fill one of them with the anise seeds for easy removing. I made it a habit to keep the bag in my mug, for the anise seeds to infuse the milk just a little bit more.