Named to reflect its star-like shape, this pretty spice contains a small seed that has the flavour of aniseed or liquorice. It is widely used in Chinese cooking, where it forms part of Chinese five-spice powder.
Widely available, all year round.
Star anise is sold in jars; try to pick one that has the most whole pieces.
Star anise can be added whole to stews or casseroles, and works well in any slow-cooked dish. It can be discarded before serving.
Kept in an airtight container, star anise can last for up to a year. However, it's best to discard it when you think it's starting to lose its intense flavour.
Star anise works well in Chinese dishes, stews and soups but can also be used in desserts. Spice up a rice pudding by adding a couple of stars to a simmering pot and discarding before serving.