Perfect health is based on our eating, drinking, sleeping and exercise habits. Minimising stress is also beneficial to one’s wellbeing. However, there is one magical condiment that not only spices up our lives (think pancakes), but also helps improve overall health. And in case you didn’t know, cinnamon also has libido-boosting qualities.
While cinnamon is commonly used as a spice in many households in Mzansi, nutritional advisor Nombuso Zikode from Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, says it can help improve your health.
“Using cinnamon regularly can help your body fight infections and repair tissue damage due to its high anti-inflammatory properties.”
In Alberton, Zaitoon Moses tells Health For Mzansi that she has been using cinnamon and milk also known as Cinna-milk to boost her libido since 2018, after it was recommended to her by a friend.
A warm and complex aroma
Cookbook author and food commentator Errieda du Toit, says it’s good to keep in mind that cinnamon is a bark and not a seed. It therefore has different characteristics than other spices thrown into dishes like coriander, cardamon and pepper.
“Although it is mostly used in South African cooking when added to sweet dishes and baked goods, it has a warm, complex, woody aroma which lends itself to savoury dishes,” she says.
Du Toit is also a content producer for MasterChef South Africa.
Soak up the benefits with this stew
Du Toit not only uses this much-loved spice to enhance flavour to her mouth-watering dishes, but for its health benefits too. To lower her blood pressure, she regularly starts her day with half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
“The health benefits of cinnamon have been recognised through the ages. It is known for its anti-bacterial properties and is good for gut health. It’s early days yet for definitive proof, but it seems that it may help to lower blood pressure in the short term,” she says.
“It is in the news quite a lot suggesting that it may have a moderate effect on lowering blood sugar, which is of special benefit for people with diabetes. It may even be beneficial for brain health, and studies are underway looking at a compound in cinnamon which may slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.”
While cinnamon is commonly associated with sweet dishes in Mzansi, it also adds magic to curries and meaty stews.
Try Errieda’s Stifado, a Greek beef stew with cinnamon and baby onions.
Cinnamon has other aromatics as company in this deliciously dark slow cooked stew, yet its contribution of warmth and depth of flavour is undeniable.
“While Stifado originates from Greece, the use of cinnamon in meat dishes is very traditional in North Africa and the Middle East,” says Du Toit.
- 1.5kg thick rib or chuck steak, sliced into 3 cm cubes
- 2,5ml ground cinnamon
- 5ml ground cumin
- 2 onions, chopped
- 800g pearl onions - ends cut into crosses
- 45ml tomato paste
- 60ml currants
- Olive oil for frying
- 250ml red wine (you will need more later for a top-notch experience!)
- 60ml red wine vinegar
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cloves
- 10ml ground allspice (pimento)
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the meat cubes in the marinade overnight (use a plastic or glass bowl).
2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the meat in batches until nicely browned on all sides.
3. Spoon out the meat and sprinkle with cumin and cinnamon all over. Keep aside.
4. Fry the finely chopped onions and pearl onions until lightly browned.
5. Spoon out the onions and keep aside.
6. Spoon the meat back into the pan, add the tomato paste and pour over the marinade mixture. Top with more red wine if necessary, so that the meat is covered. Cover the saucepan with a double layer of foil and put the lid on.
7. Simmer for 2 hours over low heat. Add the pearl onions and currants. Let it simmer for another hour.
8. The sauce should be nicely thick and dark. Season with salt and pepper. You can remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves if you wish.
9. Serve with rice or orzo and crumbled feta. Enjoy!