I bought some dried herbs from Casanova and Daughters in Covent Garden. I found oregano and basil flowers the day I visited. The herbs come in paper-wrapped, tied bundles of dried stems complete with leaves and flowers. The little paper packages are very evocative, rather like a small and tight bouquet of dried flowers. Gently untwisting and sniffing the contents reveals a powerful scent of the particular herb. The basil flowers come in two varieties: one scented with lemon the other with cinnamon. The cinnamon version is a revelation, the distinct combination of both basil and cinnamon is so unexpected it brings a smile to the face.
I can think of many things that will go with the lemon basil flowers, as in my goat’s cheese bruschetta, or almost any pasta dish, especially any made with fish. However, I’ve been intrigued by the cinnamon version and wondered where it might best be used. A shortbread biscuit seems like a good idea for either basil flower herb, but I also wondered about savoury options. With Sicily’s rich history, its cuisine has taken many influences including Moorish cuisine. One distinctive element of Moorish cooking is the use of cinnamon and cumin. So I decided to adapt caponata, a classic Sicilian recipe, with cinnamon basil flowers.