Gerarde (The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597) writes about Sweet Cicely, "It hath leaves of a very good and pleasant smell and taste like unto Chervil and something hairy, which as caused us to call it Sweet Chervil. The leaves of the Sweet Chervil are exceedingly good, wholesome, and pleasant among other sallad herbs, giving he taste of anise seed unto the rest. The seeds, eaten as a salad while they are yet green, with oyle, vinegar and pepper exceed all other sallads by many degrees, both in pleasantness of taste and sweetness of smell and wholesomeness for the cold and feeble stomachs. The roots are likewise most excellent in a salad with oil and vinegar, being first boiled, which is very good for old people that are dull and without courage."
For more information on both the cultivated Sweet Cicely (M. odorata) and the native plant (O. chilensis), visit my guest blog on Cuisine Canada.
8-inch springform pan, lined with parchment paper and lightly buttered
preheat oven to 375° F
1-1/4 cups blanched almonds
4 eggs, separated
1 cup caster sugar, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sweet cicely
grated rind and juice of 3 oranges (about 1-1/4 cups juice and 3 tablespoons rind)
1 tablespoon Anisette or other anise-flavored liqueur, optional
1. Using a food processor, chop the almonds until they are coarse. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar until thick. With the motor running, add the yolk mixture through the opening in the lid, processing until the mixture is thick and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the orange rind. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the orange juice, until it is of batter consistency.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar over and beat until the peaks hold their shape. Fold half of the meringue into the almond mixture until just evenly mixed. Fold the other half into the almond mixture, being careful not to over mix in order to keep the air in the whites.
3. Spoon the almond mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until set in the center and a light golden color. Cool and transfer to a serving plate.
4. Make orange sauce: In a saucepan, combine orange juice and remaining sugar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Adjust heat and lightly boil for 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur if using. Drizzle the orange sauce over the top of the cake and let sit for 20 minutes or longer before serving.
5. To garnish, lay fresh sweet cicely leaves over the cake and sprinkle icing sugar or cocoa over the leaves to impart a leaf pattern. Garnish the serving plate with fresh sweet cicely leaves.