Indigenous Ingredients | Anchovy

In Catalonia it is the ‘famous little blue fish’. In the Polesina the ‘healthy blue fish’. In Anatolia the ‘little fish with a big reputation’.

From Norway to Denmark, from France to Spain, and from Italy to Turkey, the loveable anchovy is the ingredient that makes a traditional dish memorable.

Collioure is a fishing port on the Catalan coast in south-east France. The blue anchovy is its symbol. The people of the port have anchovies in their blood, going back a very long time.

The preparation process is ancestral, passed down to those who would become Anchoïeuses – women who select the best of these little blue fish.

They are carefully beheaded, gutted, layered with salt in drums, and left to mature for several months. This produces a ‘fillet of dark brown colour, soft texture and with a mountain ham-like scent’.

Anchovies in Oli

These days they also pack the anchovies in brine, in oil, in vinegar and produce anchovy cream, a product that is becoming a delicacy.

There was a time when this activity was commonplace throughout the coastal regions of the western Mediterranean Sea and the

Tyrrhenian Sea between Sardinia and the Italian peninsula, especially along the coast south of Naples.

Across the peninsula, in the Adriatic Sea, anchovies are still fished all year round. Where the alpine rivers flow into the lagoon, these small, slender, silver-blue fish grow fat on concentrations of plankton.

In the Polesine below Venice, chefs treat them with respect, knowing they are rich in fluorine, iodine, omega 3, fluorine, iodine, phosphorus, selenium and vitamins A and B.

Hamsiyi is the collective name for dishes containing anchovy in Turkey. Half of the fish caught in Turkish waters, mostly in the Black Sea, are hamsi, and every cook in the towns and villages of the Black Sea region knows what to do with them.

What they don’t do is cure them for later use. The basic recipe is hamsi cooked over a low heat in olive oil, parsley, salt and water, then served dressed with lemon for a tasty snack. Leave the hamsi whole, add vinegar and this is the concoction that is exported.

These Black Sea blue fish are also added to bakes, bread, soups, stews, meatballs and rice.

Orecchiette con Broccoli e Acciughe
broccoil with ear-pasta and anchovies

Orechiette with broccoli, cheese, olive oil and anchovies

Orecchiette, the ear-shaped coin pasta associated with Bari on Italy’s east coast, is made for the sauces the people of the peninsula keep to themselves.

One such sauce is anchovy and garlic flavoured broccoli drenched in olive oil.

The amount of olive oil seems at first excessive but it is necessary to absorb the broccoli, cling to the orrechiette and hold the cheese.

Fresh broccoli should be used. If the stems are tough, they will be fibrous, so peel them. This is a melt-in-the-mouth experience that does not work with chewy vegetable fibres.

The anchovies should come in oil, of Mediterranean origin.

  • 1 kg broccoli, whole stalks, washed
  • 500 g orecchiette
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 100 g anchovy fillets
  • 50 g parmigiano, grated
  • 50 g pecorino, grated
  • 15 g pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Cut stem ends from broccoli. Boil broccoli, flower heads up, in a large covered pot of salted water, stems in, heads out of water. Remove to a large soup plate when the stems are al dente.

Cut stems into small pieces, leave flower heads whole.

Heat oil in a large wide frying pan, brown garlic, add broccoli and anchovies, season.

Cook pasta, drain and mix into broccoli, dress with cheese.

Traditional Anchovy Dishes

Escalivade de Légumes aux Anchois FRANCE summer vegetables with anchovy
Leverpostej DENMARK liver pâté with anchovy
Pissadadière ITALY flat bread with anchovy
Salsa Tonnata ITALY tuna sauce with anchovy
Tapenade FRANCE capers, garlic, lemon juice, olives with anchovy
Yaitsa Farshirovannye RUSSIA devilled eggs stuffed with anchovy