The tongue has 10,000 taste buds able to recognise five distinct tastes: sweet, sour, salty, savoury and – the most complex of these – bitter.
On the hand, the nose has 10,000 more receptors than this. Both the tongue and the nose use the same types of receptors, so aromas make a huge impact on what we taste.
Now let’s put this in the context of gastronomy…
For over a hundred years, bitters have been considered an essential component of many cocktail recipes, but less is known about when it became a part of the kitchen. Of course, bitters are seldom used in cooking or baking, with the exception of chefs and experimental home cooks. It’s about time this changed. It’s an ingredient that no home kitchen should be without!
The flavours of appetisers, entrees and desserts can be enhanced with just a few dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters. Not at all bitter when added to food, it has been found to intensify the flavour of other ingredients and, for those who are sensitive, can even counteract the acidic component of tart dishes.
In Angostura’s home country of Trinidad and Tobago, bitters are added to dishes like breads, soups, and marinades. In fact, Angostura is so serious about cooking with bitters that in 1960 they released a handbook called The Secret of Good Taste: The Angostura Cook Book championing recipes that called for a dash of bitters. Today, a collection of these recipes can be found on the Angostura bitters website.
In celebration of bittered cooking, VinePair has released a selection of bittered recipes created by chefs across the USA from cookies to coffee, and even steak. Here are a few of our top picks from their collection for when you’re entertaining at home:
By David Baudek of The Kerryman Bar & Restaurant in Chicago
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large leeks, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only
- ±1kg winter squash (butternut or pumpkin)
- ±1L low-sodium chicken stock or broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup cream
- 2 tablespoons Angostura aromatic bitters
Peel and seed squash, then cut into two-inch chunks. Melt butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Stir in leeks and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are translucent. Stir in squash, stock, water, bitters, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to the boil. Cook soup, uncovered, until squash is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with cream and a dash of additional bitters.
By Coopers’ Craft Bourbon ambassador and former executive chef, Michael Ring
- 60ml bourbon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon cherry preserve
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1 teaspoon Angostura aromatic bitters
Mix ingredients and soak steak for min. three hours or max. overnight. Keep refrigerated. Cook steak as per normal.
For dessert, a favourite of Angostura’s – Crème Caramel:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 30ml water
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups full cream milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5ml Angostura aromatic bitters
- Dash of salt
Preheat oven to 160˚C. Place 6 ramekins in a 9 x 13 baking pan.
For caramel, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir as you boil gently over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until sugar starts to turn golden. Remove from heat and divide among ramekins, tilting to coat bottoms of each as you pour. Note that sugar will continue to caramelize after removing pan from heat. Meanwhile boil 1 – 2 litres of water for the 9 x 13 pan.
For crème, whisk eggs in a medium size bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar. Divide among the ramekins. Pour the hot water into pan halfway up the ramekins. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand in hot water for 10 minutes. Remove ramekins from water and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve in ramekins or invert onto plates.
For more information on Angostura bitters and cocktail recipes visit www.angosturabitters.com.
To download the official House of Angostura Cocktail app visit http://angosturabitters.com/app/ – available for iPhone from the Apple App Store and for Android devices from the Google Play Store.