Anise has a distinct licorice flavor: powerfully sweet, aromatic, warm, and fruity. A plant in the parsley family, anise seed is related to caraway, dill, cumin and fennel. The licorice flavor of anise seed resembles fennel and tarragon, and is used throughout the culinary world in both sweet and savory applications.
Anise is native to the Middle East, where it has been used since prehistoric times. Ancient Romans ended their elaborate feasts with anise cakes, hung anise plants near their pillows to prevent bad dreams, and used anise seed to aid digestion and ward off epileptic attacks. In magical practice, anise seed is said to increase psychic abilities and ward off the Evil Eye.
Anise seed is a favorite flavor in sweets like the black jelly bean, Italian pizzelle, and German pfeffernusse and springerle cookies. Anise is also the familiar distinctive taste in many favorite liqueurs: French absinthe, anisette and pastis, Greek ouzo, Italian samba, and German Jagermeister. Anise is also thought to be one of the "secret ingredients" in French chartreuse.
The seeds are used in Indian cuisine to enhance the flavor of soups and fish, and are eaten alone after dinner as a digestif. In Italy and Germany they are added to bread and to strong gingerbread dough.
In the Mediterranean, anise makes frequent appearances in cakes, breads, cookies and liquors. In small amounts, anise makes a nice addition to sausage, or in tomato sauce.
Sprinkle whole anise seed on coffeecakes, sweet rolls, or use ground anise in cookies, sweet pickles, and candies. Anise seed tastes good for chicken, duck & veal, and pairs well with cinnamon and bay.