Friday, July 16, 2010
Look at what I found! It's my mom's old Agostura® recipe book. The cover is missing so it is difficult for me to ascertain exactly when it was printed. Coming to think of it, I don’t remember it ever having had a cover but my guess would be that it was printed in the late 60’s or mid-70’s? The recipes contained within are for the most part unimaginative but there are a few quaint recipes for turtle stew, lappe and salami d’agouti. Finally there is a chapter with the amusing title of Wife-saving recipes! I can only imagine the ad campaign:
.Are you a wife? Are your meals dull and boring? Then you need saving. You need the magic touch that means so much! Alrighty then, so I won't be quitting my day job, any time soon.
Angostura® bitters is known the world over as an indispensable bar ingredient but did you know that in Trinidad, home of this world famous concoction it is a much used cooking ingredient? According to the official website it is the hallmark of a good cook!
Does it make your food taste bitter ?
No. Like the website says, Angostura® aromatic bitters is not bitter when added to food and drinks. It works by enhancing the flavour of other ingredients without masking the personality of other ingredients; it adds a unique but subtle flavour of its own.
In my experience when you cook or even bake with bitters, what you get is an increase in what the Japanese call umami or the savoriness of the food. This taste has no direct translation except to say that the dish has a level of deliciousness that goes beyond the ordinary. In local parlance, it gives your dish that sweet hand taste. In Trinidad a good cook is described as some one who has sweet han’ (sweet hands) meaning that what ever they cook is “sweet too bad” - sweet here not meaning sugary but lip- smacking go back for second goodness.
Trinidadians cook with Angostura® bitters all the time. So much so, it has become almost a reflex motion for me to put a dash of it in soups, stews, marinades, on ice cream, in pasta sauce as well as in my drinks. So ingrained is it into our cooking culture that it is rarely mentioned in recipes because it goes with out saying that it’s in there.
So tell me do you cook with bitters or am I the only one who finds it to be almost as necessary as salt? Maybe you use another ingredient to give your dish that magic touch. Do tell.
My next recipe will of course feature Angostura bitters. I just hope that my Jamaican readers don’t slay me when they see what it is…. Stay tuned.
Posted by Wizzy John at 6:54 PM