Ain’t no liquor in liquorice

I love liquorice (aka “licorice”) in all forms, or at least I thought I did until I tasted a triple-salt variety last weekend. The black cats and coins were ok. Even the soft double-salt triangle had its charms. Maybe it’s my pregnant tastebuds, the low added salt in my diet, the unfamiliar tang of ammonium chloride, or a blend of all of the above. No, I did not like the three-times salt, not one bit.

lots of salty liquorice

This is a usual reaction of non-Dutch zoute drop tasters, the nice Dutch man said as he effectually patted my pretty little head. I guess I will have to be satisfied with my Anglo-Saxon/Chinese/Italian heritage and accept that I do not have an in-built preference for salmiakki.

I had assumed that, given the name, liquorice may have originally contained alcohol. I was wrong. Seeking an etymological description to explain the name and history, at least in part, I discovered that the word ‘licorice’ is rooted in Latin with an Old French influence (from liquere — to liquefy — and reglisse — after the method of extraction). The Anglicised ‘liquorice’ apparently came about c.1600.

Liquorice is traditionally contraindicated in pregnancy as it is linked to stimulating uterine contractions, premature labour and raising blood pressure. Although most reports of liquorice’s pregancy-related side effects are suspected or anecdotal, I did manage to find one definitive study: high consumption of liquorice (100g+ of pure liquorice per week) while pregnant is associated with lower IQ and behavioural disorders in the child.

cup o' liquorice

For the general population, so long as you do not suffer from high blood pressure, liquorice promises some amazing health benefits. Its therapeutic use in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine is well documented and diverse; it can be used to promote good oral hygiene, aid weight loss, and treat ulcers and eczema, amongst other cleansing and protective functions.

I have developed this week’s recipe in honour of this herb, with thanks to @bradav & @Claudia_delaMot for sharing flavour pairing ideas! While it could benefit from tweaking, I think you will find this recipe to be refreshingly different, with a pleasant and lingering sweetness.

Recipe #127: Cherry liquorice sorbet. If you apply my method, it will take you 15-24 hours to make this recipe, thanks to brewing & freezing time. I used organic ingredients and Mac, my Thermomix (TM), to create this recipe. I also used a kettle, a teapot, and an icecube tray and a flexible baking dish to freeze my ingredients.

You will need:
► 2 tsp dried liquorice root
► 1 tsp dried peppermint
► 75g dried cherries [not a technical measurement. I had 14 dimples in my icecube tray and placed 5 cherries in each dimple. 5 dried cherries = 5g]
► 60g panela (or another unrefined sugar), pre-ground into a fine powder
► the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
► 810g (about 810mL) water

There are 4 main steps to this recipe:
(1) brew the tea;
(2) plump the cherries;
(3) freeze everything; and
(4) turn it into sorbet.

For (1), place the liquorice root and peppermint into a tea pot and wet with cool water. Start to boil the water in your kettle, but heat only to the point that the kettle becomes hot to touch (~50°C). Turn off the heat and pour the water over the herbs, then allow the tea to brew for around an hour. Do not strain all of the tea afterwards; you will use some of the tea in step (2) and the rest in (3) after more brewing time.

(2): Distribute the cherries evenly across the icecube tray. Pour some of the (strained) tea from (1) over the cherries and cover the tray; leave overnight. Leave the remainder of the tea to brew overnight.

(3): The next morning, place the icecube tray in the freezer. Strain the rest of the tea, which has brewed overnight, into a flexible baking dish and also place this into the freezer. Leave everything to freeze completely.

it begins

(4): Remove your cherry cubes from the icecube tray and crack your tea into icecube-sized pieces. Place all of this into your Thermomix (or I am sure you could use a decent food processor/blender) with the panela and vanilla. Process until you have a beautifully homogeneous mixture [TM: speed 7-8, using your TM spatula to constantly push and work the mixture from the TM lid, for as long as it takes to get a smooth sorbet].

the sorbet is made!

Serve on chocolate dirt [crumbed remnants of raw choc pastry from my pretty little raw petit fours] with little pieces of dried cherry. The dried cherry pieces candify in your mouth when combined with the ice cold sorbet.

my new vice

At one day shy of 37 weeks pregnant and with a naturally low blood pressure, I reckon my risk of ill effects from moderate liquorice enjoyment to be negligible — making this sorbet my newest low-guilt treat.

H 🙂

PS. For those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge, I have extended the closing date for my 2012 survey to 14 January:

Thank you to those of you who have completed or are about to take the survey! I will use the results to better meet your needs as a reader and/or client.

Addendum of 9/01/2012: I corrected the weight of cherries in the recipe to 75g after a remeasure this morning, although I’m not sure that the 5g would make a detrimental difference. I also included an instruction to strain the liquorice-peppermint tea before freezing.



  1. This looks so tasty! I love raspberry licorice and I’m sure if they made cherry i’d lie that too. Where do you get the dried licorice root from? I cannot wait to try this.


    • Thanks for your comment, Spencer. I don’t think I will ever understand triple salted liquorice myself, but I find the lightly-salted-and-filled-with-sweet-sugary-delicious varieties to be very palatable indeed.

      H 🙂


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