Me and the Anchovy

Me and the anchovy…

One of the best things to eat is roast lamb … I like the leg best but this recipe can be done with those well trimmed racks of lamb or if you can get them, rumps. Take an anchovy or three and with a soft bladed knife, mash with some garlic cloves until you make a salty paste. Make some small trees 3 cm high of Rosemary, for a roast leg say 10 for a small rack 2 or for a rump, one is enough. Use a sharp small knife and make a slit in meat, fill with the anchovy paste and then tuck in the rosemary. Roast as you would normally and allow the flavours to go through the lamb. Delicious.


Roman Roast Lamb

1 leg of lamb (the leg can be whole or can be diced into a 2 – 3 cm dice)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 knob of butter

1 lambs kidney

6 large anchovy fillets

3 sprigs of Rosemary

4 – 6 cloves of garlic

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 glasses of white wine

salt pepper (add this just before serving to taste)

In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic, anchovies and rosemary to a smooth paste.

In a large heavy based casserole pot brown the meat in oil and butter, if whole, then brown it well on all sides, if cubed, then the same and place to one side.

If using the lambs kidney, then dice it and brown it, then add the paste, the two glasses of wine and the vinegar and scrape up the browned bits and cook. Return the meat to the pan and get back to heat… drop the temperature and place the lid on the casserole, cook over a slow gas for as long as it takes for the meat to become very soft and tender… should the liquid in the pot start to evaporate too quickly, add some water. At the end of cooking you should have about a cup of liquid or a bit more.

Serve with a good  rice, some pasta or couscous.


Loved or loathed in about equal proportions, I am a lover. I love the added push it can give to foods, its spiky saltiness, the heady fishiness. What I hear most is that it is too strong and the flavour overpowering. Makes me think that the complainee has just simply had a bad anchovy experience.

Anchovies have been around on the food scene for a very long time, found mostly in the temperate zones, they adore the Mediterranean for obvious reasons ,in the tropical waters there is a sub species that has been used in foods for many hundreds of years. It is anchovies that form the basis of the much used, SE Asian fish sauce. (strictly speaking, along with any other small fish trawled up in the nets.)

Anchovies have found their way into food flavouring for many hundreds if not thousands of years. In Europe and the British Isles, they have long featured in the food chain and could be found in markets in great mounds, salted. They were also kept in barrels and this resulted in a mix of anchovies that was sold as a paste.

Anchovies were found in a fermented ancient Roman sauce called Garum. It was said to be very pungent and the sauce Dried fish was and continues to be a food in much demand around the globe

I should suggest that anchovy haters now leave the premises, but I am nothing if not determined when it comes to the delights of the tiny fish. I do have one suggestion for the piscatorially challenged, soak the little beggars in milk before you use them… this does two things, reduces the salt and lessens the taste. No more than 30 minutes.

Take anchovies away from the cooks of Spain France Italy Portugal and to a lesser extent Greece and you would have a small riot on your hands and I am with them. I have a jar of anchovies that stands beside the stove and when I need a flavour boost, in they go. I can honestly tell you it would be rare for me to start to fry anything without tossing an anchovy into the warming oil… I must say here in my own family I have one or two who do not like the taste and so I never tell them that there is anchovy lurking in such things as the veal in cream sauce, the sliced potatoes cooked with garlic (anchovy) and cream… thank you so much Sweden for this. The fact is they just cannot taste the anchovy as the flavour spreads through the whole dish.


Jannson’s Delight

2 Large Onions sliced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 Large (baking) Potatoes

1 small can Anchovies, drained and chopped (reserve the oil)

1 1/2 cups cream

Fry the onions in the 2 tablespoons of butter until golden. Slice the potatoes length wise as thin as possible. Using a long dish, butter it lightly and layer the dish (several times if possible but finish with potatoes) with potatoes, onions and anchovies. Drizzle the reserved oil over the top and dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Pour 3/4 cup of cream over the potatoes and bake in a hot oven (220 c) for 30 minutes, pour the remaining 3/4 cup of cream over the potatoes, reduce oven to 180 c and cook for a further 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the top is golden.

So for me, anchovy finds its way into a delicious Anchovy Essence that is stunning for rubbing on a good steak or some veal before you cook it. Great also in salad dressings and a million other uses. I have just today done the first (test) batch of the original Indian version of what is now called Worcestershire Sauce, we wont be standing it out in the sun, that would be frowned upon… mind you without the sun of India, very very many of the pickles, pastes and chutneys would not be possible. Those amazing condiments that are just simply various vegetables and spices in mostly oil but some lime juice as well, need the suns warmth to bring the character out.

Anchovy Essence copy

Why are we becoming so dammed obsessed with stuff like this. We are over regulated to hell and back and, it is getting worse.

I forgot to mention that this version of Worcestershire sauce is quite different to the one we have been making for years to a recipe passed onto me by my Auntie Mon. This one uses souring agents (tamarind) and anchovy along with spices and is allowed to steep for a longish time to let all the flavours meld.

Putanesca sauce is the sauce that working women in Italy liked between ‘jobs’. It is quite strongly flavoured and contains anchovy along with chilli. We also do a limited version of Tapenade (limited because the olive oil is hard to contain). I have tested a great Anchovy Butter but butter is hard to stabilise. The English Gentlemans relish, much loved


Some of the great recipes of the world would be nothing without anchovy, Caesar Salad would not be without its anchovy, Bagna Cauda that great Italian butter sauce could not be unless it contained anchovy, Saltimbocca a delicious way of cooking veal with anchovy and sage leaves would not exist.

More importantly, there are just so many times when the home or restaurant cook reaches for that dash of flavour. In many Asian countries, anchovies are an absolute essential in cooking. In Malaysia they are called Ikan Billis, the same in Indonesia. In Korea and Japan anchovies are used in many many dishes. We owe this small fish a great debt.












~ by peterwatson on April 14, 2016.

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