“I love anchovies, but often find I have a couple of fillets or those mashed-up bits at the bottom of the tin left over. What can I do with them and the oil?”
Ah, anchovies: the little fishes with the big flavor that are equally at home in pasta sauces and stews as they are in a dressing or butter (to rub a roast chicken or lamb, say), or simply eaten on toast. Happily, a little goes a long way, which is good news for Jane and her near-empty tins.
“I love anchovies and have them all the time,” says Patrick Martinez, founder of The Tinned Fish Market. And he’s not kidding; the oily fish have made their way into his dinner for the past two nights running. If you’ve got a fillet or two going, Martinez recommends this “very rich, very quick” spaghetti dish: first, get your pasta cooking, and tear some bread (“you want generously sized breadcrumbs”). Mash up the anchovies, then fry in some oil from the tin for about 30 seconds. “Add finely sliced garlic for 30 seconds to a minute, then add the breadcrumbs and fry to soak up the oil.” When the spaghetti is ready, drain and stir in a generous spoonful of cream cheese to melt, loosening with some reserved pasta water if need be. “Add the crumbs, stir gently, then all you need is a squeeze of lemon to balance the oiliness and some pepper.”
Puttanesca is another eminently sensible way to use up stray fillets, as is the top of a pizza or onion tart. However, when it comes to those broken-up bits lurking in the bottom of the tin, it’s got to be mayonnaise. Chef Ben Tish, who is behind the menu at the recently opened The Princess Royal in west London, says: “Blend egg yolks with any bits of anchovy going, their oil, and mustard, then top up with olive oil.” This can then be used for a multitude of things, but devilled eggs are a current Tish favorite – “that’s delicious”. Alternatively, knock up a vinaigrette: “In a bowl, whisk the anchovies and their oil, add some lemon juice, red-wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and whisk again.” This is good for drizzling over salads, such as farro, rocket, pomegranate and grilled artichokes. “Toss with the vinaigrette, and you’ve got all those salty and sweet bits.”
Also good for topping salads are Martinez’s breadcrumbs from his pasta dish, while food writer and self-confessed anchovy fan Alison Roman uses fillets to make white beans magic. In her book Nothing Fancy, she cooks sliced garlic in olive oil, then adds the fish fillets, capers and chilli flakes, and sizzles until the little fish melt. She tosses in white beans, cooks for about 10 minutes, then finishes with salad leaves, herbs, parmesan and a squeeze of lemon. Serve as is or, Roman writes, “I do dream about eating it with grilled whole trout or lamb shoulder with garlicky tomatoes.”
You could also spread this anchovy joy on a kind-of pan con tomato. Tish grills focaccia or ciabatta, then smears it with broken anchovies and their oil. “Top with tomatoes, crush those in as well, and you’ve got a smoky tomato bread.” It will taste even better once those tomatoes hit their stride this summer.