Anchovies are a small oily fish best utilised as a salty additive to some dishes. Part of the herring family, their taste is of the intensely savoury ‘umami’ category, otherwise known as ‘the 5th taste’, a characteristic shared with marmite.
Speaking of which, anchovies also have the ‘Marmite efffect’; the propensity to split people into fiercely opposing love/hate camps.
I love them with a passion – for the very same reason I love marmite, chilli and wasabi: the sensation, the sheer unusualness of the taste, the fact that its neither one thing or the other. For me, if they’re eaten on their own or as a pizza topping they can be a bit overpowering but used in a sauce or cooked down to a ‘paste’ with garlic, chilli and olive oil and there’s noting better.
Anchovies have found their niche in many varied dishes across Europe; in Spain, they are known locally as Boquerones, where they pair well with tomato-based dishes with plump Spanish olives. In France and Italy, they are used to great effect in a Salade Nicoise (see below) recipe or in a puttanesca pasta sauce, respectively.
I’ve tried to be as eclectic as possible with the recipe choices below; one vegetable, one salad, one nibbles and one pizza.
Purple sprouting broccoli with chilli, garlic, toasted cashews and anchovy dressing
This is a great recipe to have just on its own or as a side dish for roast lamb or another type of meat. You could also serve it as a starter or toss it with linguine.
- 200g purple sprouting broccoli
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 red chillis, roughly chopped
- 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Half a lemon, juice only
- Boil the broccoli for 4-5 minutes until cooked but still with a nice bite to it.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan on a low-medium heat and add the cashew nuts. Stir them in the pan for 4-5 minutes until beginning to colour. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the garlic cloves with the chilli and chopped anchovies. Turn up the heat and add a splash of water to help the anchovies break down into a loose ‘sauce’ consistency.
- Season, add the lemon juice and drizzle the sauce, with the toasted cashews, over the broccoli.
This French classic is one of my firm favourites. Colourful, packed with protein and one of the best dishes to order if you’re dining out. It also isn’t short of ingredients: tuna, anchovies, green beans, black olives, tomatoes, boiled new potatoes, crunchy walnuts and salad leaves, served along with a vinaigrette dressing.
Serves 1 – 2
- For the salad:
- 200g canned tuna
- 4 new potatoes, cooked and quartered lengthways
- 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 100g Green or runner beans, topped, cooked and drained
- Handful of mixed salad leaves
- Handful of walnuts
- 1 boiled egg, halved
- 6 anchovy fillets
- Handful of sliced black olives
- A few sprigs of dill
For the vinaigrette dressing:
- 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp salt
- Black pepper
- To make the dressing or marinade whisk together the white wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper and set aside.
- Lay the salad leaves onto a large plate and pile on the tomatoes, potato, tuna, walnuts and anchovies. Drizzle over the dressing
- Finish by adding the egg, black olives and the dill.
Anchovy, rosemary and chilli popcorn
“Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It’s a grain. It’s like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.”
– James Patterson, The Angel Experiement
This is an interesting take on salty popcorn. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it. Rosemary has a wonderful pine scented aroma and goes well with the anchovies in many dishes. So next time you’re thinking of having a movie night make sure you prioritise this.
I’ve adapted this recipe from Steve Parle’s original. You can make the popcorn from scratch by heating up the kernels or use readymade (unflavoured) popcorn.
- 2 tbsp sunflower or peanut oil
- 60g popping corn
- 25g butter
- 5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
- 3 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- Pour the oil into a large, heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the corn and shake the pan gently so the kernels are in one layer and coated in oil. Cover with a lid and leave on the heat, shaking the pan gently every 30 seconds. When the first kernel pops, turn the heat down to low.
- The popcorn is ready when the pops are about 2–3 seconds apart. Tip into a large bowl. Place a plate over the top to keep warm.
- For the anchovy sauce, heat the butter in a pan with the until bubbling. Add the anchovy fillets (careful, it may spit)
- Cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, for 5-6 minutes. Squash the anchovy fillets with the back of a spoon.
- Stir in the rosemary and chilli powder and pour the sauce over the popped corn, cover the pan, and shake to combine everything.
- Serve warm.
Anchovy and Egg pizza
Both are slightly unusual toppings to see on a pizza. Its quite rich, nutritional and very tasty. Just don’t expect to find this one at your local kebab shop.
Serves 2 – 3
For the pizza base
- 150g ‘00’ flour
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp milk
For the toppings
- 2 free range eggs, segmented
- 8 anchovy fillets
- ½ red onion, sliced
- a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
- a handful of pitted green olives
- a handful of spinach leaves, shredded
- a handful of basil leaves, shredded
- 2 tbsp passata or tomato puree
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- For the pizza base, in a food processor mix together the flour and butter. Add the milk and mix into a dough.
- Lightly flour a clean kitchen surface, and take the dough and flatten into a disc, approximately 1/2 cm thick.
- Spoon the tomato passata or tomato puree onto the pizza base and ‘dress’ with the remaining toppings. Place in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve.