Skip to content
Open menu Close menu

Feed your appetite for cooking with Penguin’s expert authors

penguin logo

The bitter flavours you didn’t know you loved

by Rachel Deeley

published on 20 October 2023

Food writer and Masterchef 2021 finalist Alexina Anatole has chosen a unique premise for her debut cookbook. Bitter, as the title suggests, is a celebration of bitter flavours in all its varied forms. Following a substantial introduction to bitterness and how to handle it, the book is split into 10 chapters, each with its own impeccably researched hero ingredient, covering everything from grapefruit to tahini to cranberries to coffee. The recipes themselves are inventive yet accessible, with a range of savoury dishes, desserts and drinks for every occasion.

Featuring beautiful writing and photography throughout, Bitter is a treasure trove of 80 delicious, indulgent, sophisticated recipes – perfect for any budding chef looking to broaden their palate and balance complex flavours in their dishes. We’ve picked out 10 recipes, one from each chapter, to give you a taste of what you can expect from this gorgeous cookbook that counts Nigella Lawson, Rukmini Iyer, and Ixta Belfrage among its fans.

Grapefruit and bitter oranges

“I love all citrus fruits, but grapefruit has a musky complexity that holds my interest: it is both sour and bitter (where most citrus is straightforwardly sour), which – for me – gives it an edge. Its distinctive but delicate flavour can be overwhelmed by too much heat, too much cream or too much sugar, making it hard to create delicious grapefruit bakes and desserts that retain the essential essence of the fruit. Still, I have made this my mission.”

— Alexina Anatole

Aubergines with Whipped Feta, Grapefruit + Hot Honey

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

Sweet, hot, sticky, sour, salty – this dish has everything you could hope for in a fresh and flavoursome veggie side.

Bitter leaves

“Most greens and leaves have a degree of bitterness. Lettuces, radicchios, cabbages, kales, chards and herbs all have their nuances: some are milder, some more peppery; some lose substantial volume when you apply heat (looking at you, spinach), while others hold their own. Despite these differences, when cooked many are relatively interchangeable, making the recipes in this chapter conveniently versatile.”

— Alexina Anatole

Chicory Gratin

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

Made with chicory halves that are caramelised, beer-braised, wrapped in ham, and smothered in bechamel sauce, this hearty Gruyère-topped gratin with umami notes is the ultimate winter warmer.

Tahini

“In taste and texture, tahini brings a remarkable and unique set of qualities to the table: smoothness, creaminess, richness, earthiness, nuttiness, smokiness and a subtle, smooth bitterness. Useful in a range of foods (sauces, dips, dressings, soups, marinades), it can be silky, smooth and dense, or pale, light and whipped.”

— Alexina Anatole

No-Churn Tahini Ice Cream with Caramelised Walnuts

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

An indulgent, grown-up take on ice cream, this recipe perfectly balances sweet and sophisticated flavours – perfect if you’re looking for an easy yet impressive dinner party dessert.

Beer

“A dizzying number of beers exist: all manner of ales and lagers, porters, stouts, wheat beers, sub-categories within sub-categories. Initially I yearned for the comparative simplicity of wine classification, where it’s white or red, possibly rosé, occasionally orange and hopefully fizzy . . . Beer doesn’t feel as neat and, in a way, therein lies its beauty: it is complex in terms of categorisation, history, taste and aroma. It can be deep, subtle, dark, light, malty, toasty, bitter, sweet. It’s a whole world of flavour.”

— Alexina Anatole

Roast Chicken with Beer Butter Onions

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

This one-pot chicken recipe works equally well for a weeknight meal served with a light salad and hunk of bread, or a show-stopping weekend roast with all the trimmings.

Walnuts

“Although walnuts don’t have the current cool of almonds, the sweetness of pecans or the regal quality of pistachios, they are one of the most versatile nuts in the kitchen. Their bitterness makes them good with fatty meats, but their own meaty, firm and slightly waxy texture also makes them a useful ingredient for plant-based foods, where they add richness, body and creaminess.”

— Alexina Anatole

Orecchiette with Walnuts, Brown Butter + Brussels Sprouts

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

Proving that Brussels sprouts are more than just a dreaded Christmas dinner component, this easy pasta dish is an Autumnal medley of subtle and bitter flavours.

Cranberries

“Cranberries are brilliant in baked goods (much like sour cherries) as their sharpness balances out the sweetness of ingredients such as white chocolate and pear; they complement spice beautifully in both savoury and sweet situations; they are charming in chutneys, where they add nuance and piquancy; and they lend fabulous acidity to cocktails.”

— Alexina Anatole

Pork + Cranberry Meatballs

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

Inspired by IKEA meatballs (a cult favourite for many), this dish blends the rich, fatty flavours of pork mince and ricotta with the tartness of cranberries, rounded off with a mellow yet warming mustard cream sauce.

Tea

“In this chapter, I explore the bitterness – and sometimes smokiness – present in a few different types of tea: lapsang souchong, British breakfast tea, South African rooibos, Japanese sencha tea leaves and powdery green matcha, as well as Indian masala chai with its bitter notes of cardamom. All different, all wonderful, and all soothing for the soul.”

— Alexina Anatole

Tomato + Lapsang Souchong Salad

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

In this elevated take on the humble tomato salad, the addition of dried lapsang souchong tea leaves, which have an intense, smoky flavour profile, perfectly complements the sweet tangy flavour of the tomatoes.

Coffee

“Beyond the hot drinks that fuel us daily, coffee is an ingredient that can be used in your cooking. It brings a powerful combination of bitter, sour (acidic) and umami flavour, which in savoury dishes adds depth, and in sweet applications excites all of your taste buds at the same time – it’s very much grounds for culinary brilliance.”

— Alexina Anatole

Ancho Coffee Short Ribs

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

Ideally served on a bed of fresh corn polenta, these Mexican-inspired short ribs are gorgeously flavoured with an earthy spice rub and a source combining ancho chilli, ground coffee and beer sauce.

Cocoa

“…The flavour of chocolate varies hugely: it can be more or less bitter, fruity, wine-like, woody, earthy, spicy, resinous, smoky. And while good-quality chocolate is best appreciated without fuss, it pairs beautifully with many ingredients because of the complexity of its flavour profile. Nuts, spices and fruit are its most obvious bedfellows, but even ingredients like blue cheese can find a harmony.”

— Alexina Anatole

Prawns with Chipotle, Cocoa + Charred Pineapple

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

Chocolate and chilli are a match made in heaven, and this pan-fried prawn dish blends sweetness, bitterness, and heat with the addition of citrus, pineapple, and two kinds of chilli pepper.

Liquorice

“Liquorice is nature’s dark, complex candy, with a flavour so distinct it could never please everyone – it doesn’t even try. The world cleaves into liquorice lovers and liquorice loathers. Perhaps one of the challenges with liquorice is that it refuses to be tied down: it is both bitter and sweet, harsh and soft, metallic and earthy, medicinal and caramel-like.”

— Alexina Anatole

Pineapple, Rum + Liquorice Upside-Down Cake

by Alexina Anatole
from Bitter

This grown-up take on a retro classic makes the most of liquorice’s caramel notes, and takes further inspiration from Bajan rum cake.

Share

You might also like


View all

Features

Baking Basics with Nicola Lamb: How to make perfect scones

Nicola Lamb, baking expert and author of SIFT, shares her essential tips for making scones from scratch.

Features

Baking Basics with Nicola Lamb: How to make perfect custard

Nicola Lamb, baking expert and author of SIFT, shares her essential tips for making custard from scratch.

Recipe Collections

10 easy Indian vegetarian recipes

From moreish starters to hearty curries and centrepieces, find the best vegetarian Indian dishes you’ll want to make at home.

newsletter

Subscribe to The Happy Foodie email newsletter

Get our latest recipes, features, book news and ebook deals straight to your inbox every week