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Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Photo by: Lord-Williams

cassia, cañafístula, Gr. kasia, L. Cinnamomum cassia, Ar. darseen, kerfee, OE ME candel, kanel(e), sinamone’ (“flour of canel” is thought to be cassia bark), Eng. cassia, Chinese cassia, bastard cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon. Cassia, with turmeric, ginger and cardamom, were essential items imported from the Far East to the Middle East. Cassia originated in Burma and was first documented in 2700 BC, when Shen Nung, a Chinese, included cassia in a medical discourse placing it in the same plant group as cinnamon. At least by 2,000 B.C., cassia was exported to the Middle East. Arabs carried on lucrative trading of cassia by 600 B.C. In their attempt to obtain the monopoly of the trade route in the Far West, including the Malay Archipelago and the Spice Islands, they created legends to discourage others from invading their territories. They claimed winged animals guarded cassia growing in shallow lakes. 

Cassia bark was imported to Egypt from China and used in mummification mixtures for pharaohs and in witchcraft. Israel too received it. It is mentioned in the Bible, EX 27:19, EZ 30:23-4; and Ps 45:8 as an ingredient in holy anointing oil and to scent garments. From 40 AD the Romans became the principle traders of spices until the fall of the Empire. Due to its availability in the Arab world, it was introduced in Al-Andalus dishes after 711. It was first documented in Spain around 1250 in the  Libro de Alexandre and the 13th C Anón Al-Andalus cookery manuscript. In the former, it is described as having the branches and trunk covered with thick bark and the leaves are similar to those of pepper. There are several species. The best is purple, the narrowest and longest. The fistulous when bitten off tastes good, aromatic and smells  somewhat like rancid wine. It was thought useful for many illnesses and was used to season food and drinks. Castro cites an herbal manuscript stating that when ground, it comforts the stomach and resolves winds, it takes away bad mouth order and is used as an important remedy for the stomach and it gives color to the face. When cooked in foods, it has the same effect. It provokes purgation in women. It is warm to the third degree and dry in the first but with notable comfort for its astringent properties.

From left to right: Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Until the end of the 13 C, however, it was not in general use in Europe. It should be noted that spices in the Middle Ages were essential for health and healing. For this, they were incorporated into regional cuisines in tonics and food. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves were absolutely basic in medieval cookery.

Cassia's flat, bitter taste is in contrast to the sweet bite that Ceylon cinnamon has. The aroma of Ceylon is warm and sweet while Cassia is harsh. It is thick and hard while Ceylon cinnamon is soft, thin and brittle. Ceylon is tan while cassia is reddish brown. Cassia double rolled and has a hollow tube while Ceylon is rolled and filled like a cigar. Cassia contains high levels of coumarin, a blood thinner used to prevent blood clots and blocked arteries, while Ceylon has low levels. Cinnamon in general symbolizes spirituality, success, healing, power, psychic powers, lust and protection. [Anón/Huici. 1966:17:23:26:28:33:31 etc; Cambridge. 2000:II:1757; Castro. Alimentación. 1996:290; Curye. 1985:175; ES: Collins. Apr 1, 96; ES: Gavalas. Sep 23, 02; and ES: Herbs. Oct 8, 02]


Mashing Reddish-brown Cassia in a Mortar
Photo by: Lord-Williams

1 pigeon or a whole chicken breast
½ c virgin olive oil
1 tsp murri Byzantine[1]
1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp cilantro
1 tsp cassia
1 tsp thyme
8 eggs

1 tsp cilantro


If pigeons are available clean one, otherwise a chicken breast. Heat a frying pan. Add olive oil. When hot, brown the meat. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Pigeon Omelette
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Make a mixture of murri, vinegar, cilantro, cassia and thyme. Add this to the frying pan, Chop the meat into bite size pieces and return it to the frying pan, cover and simmer until the meat is done.

Beat 8 eggs. Add the meat mixture. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the frying pan and heat. When hot pour the meat and egg mixture and cook over moderate heat until the liquid solidifies and is easily detached from the sides of the pan. Place a dinner plate over the pan and flip the omelet out onto the plate. Slid the omelet back into the pan and cook the other side.

Serve warm garnished with cilantro. If any is left over do not store in the refrigerator.

[1] See blog titled almori published on August 25, 2011 for recipe of Byzantine murri.

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