Fennel is a cooling spice, contributing mainly the sweet taste with an undertone of the bitter taste. Its taste is reminiscent of licorice. It has a nutty flavor and a strong aroma when sautéed in ghee.
According to ayurveda, fennel is extremely good for digestion. It acts as a general toner for the digestive system, and is particularly good for enhancing agni, the digestive fire, without aggravating Pitta. In India, eating a few toasted fennel seeds after a meal is a common practice, both to aid digestion and to freshen the breath.
Fennel seeds can be used whole or ground. Whole fennel seeds, sautéed in ghee, contribute aroma and flavor to dry vegetable dishes, and ground fennel works very well in sauces. Fennel combines well with other ayurvedic spices such as cumin, coriander, dried ginger and black pepper.
Sauté turmeric, ground cumin, ground ginger and ground fennel in ghee, blend cashews in water to make a thin paste and add to the spices to simmer — cook into a rich sauce for vegetables. Fennel seeds can be baked into cookies and muffins and a small quantity of ground fennel can be added to rice pudding for an exotic flavor.
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