Monday, 12 November 2012

Cookblog: Anchovy Paste

Creation is unfortunately not perfect. A number of things are, or at least appear to be, rather inadequately designed; and I am still working on a firm, but respectful, Open Letter to Our Lord Creator, pointing out such minor facets of the universe which might be improved next time He decides to set up another Creation (to be frank: I would not blame Him if He did; we’ve made a pretty mess of the present one!) That is not, however, what I wanted to talk about today. Today, I want to talk about anchovies.

Anchovies suffer from one of the more lamentable shortcomings of this our present creation. To wit: rot. Even when properly preserved, salted and canned, anchovies putrefy at a rapid pace. Whereas you can keep canned salmon for half a dozen years, and tuna fish often for about a decade, anchovies must be eaten within a year after packing, and even that is supposing you stored the bloody tin can in the fridge! Who ever heard of such a thing? Three methods of conservation – salt, cold and can - and you still discover two times out of three that your emergency supply is way beyond its safe date for consumption when you finally want to serve it.

Surely you see where I am going, dear reader. Yes, indeed, this weekend I discovered a precious can of anchovies in my fridge, whose bottom screamed ‘Eat Me NOW!’ in its miniscule .6 font of blue printed letters. As I had no huge salads to make, and no spoiled gourmet cat in the house, I had to come up with an impromptu recipe so that this most expensive little delicacy would not go to waste. Waste, after all, is a Sin – the more so now that the victims of the Divine Euro, in Greece, Portugal and Spain, would kill for such a tiny can of minuscule sprats.

So I set to work, without too much hope or expectations, since the anchovy is a difficult fish to please… It is all at once oily, salty and of very strong taste… A delicacy which calls for the most delicate approach, the hand of a master, the undivided attention of a genius chef…

Well, it will surprise you none, dear reader, that Alfred B. Mittington Did It Again!! He created his own simple but impressive version of Anchovy Paste, a Divine Spread, if he says so himself, with whose creative design there is absolutely nothing wrong. Do try it one day when you find yourself in his… I mean: My Shoes.

Paste of Anchovies

Empty the contents of the can into the food processor with a fork. Take care to keep out as much of the canned oil as possible (the oil has a most dominant taste!) Add a tablespoon of chopped onions, another tablespoon of chopped tomato, a dash of lemon, a dash of good olive oil, and a dash of tomato ketchup. ADD NO SALT! Do add some pepper or green Tabasco if you must, but please note that this recipe can do perfectly well without. You do not need to pick out those irritating little fish bones, since you won’t find them again once the process is finished.

Run the food processor until the juice is smooth. Next add broken bread or boiled potato until – after running the food processor some more - you get a paste of the density of your liking. As this is meant to be a spread, the consistency should resemble that of a soft pate. Put the paste in a bowl, and let it sit for at least a couple of hours, so that the onion and the tomato can ripen.

Possible improvements include a small spoonful of mayonnaise, or replacing the olive oil with very soft butter. Also, if you want a truly luxurious version: add a chopped hard boiled egg at the very end of the process, and stir with a spoon (not with the food processor).

You can use this fine paste as a spread all by itself, on bread or toast, or as a base for more elaborate canapés. Since the taste is by now rather mild, it may even be eaten separately; but I would suggest small quantities, next to other side dishes such as Tzatziki Salata, Oeuf Mayonnaise, and Garottes Rapé.


Let it not go to waste
Make anchovies paste!


  1. I have to applaud your efforts - considering that you're well acquainted with the biology and history of the life cycle of the Anchovy. I'm more of a Tuna person myself :)


  2. To tell you the truth Ms Azra: I'm a canned salmon person much more than an anchovy fan. And I limit my tuna intake as too many dolphins die because of tuna fishing (not to mention that we are rapidly exterminating tuna...) Even so one tries to appreciate all the Good Things in life from time to time.

  3. With your accomplished turn of phrase, I would hazard a guess that you are somewhat familiar with our Sceptre'd Isle? Thus do I stand, open gaped, at your anchovied flattery of the relish of gentleman, to whit John Osborn's Patum Peperium.

    T'was the breakfast of choice for my poor ag'd mother, slathere'd upon hot butter'd toast, two slices and accompani'd with lashings of Lavazza Gold coffee. (I delight in the overmisuse of commas.) I also enjoy collective nouns, such as a murder of crows of a scrum of nuns, 'though that is more an apt description of the Sydney Opera House.

    I offer for your delectation, a Googlesque of links.

    I remaim sir, your most obedient servant.

  4. I . Thank you for your imformation i got all your long as you're not planning on eating this in an enclosed space with very little air circulation, you should give it a try! It's delicious, and would make a perfect side dish for a summer party or cookout. I love the flavor of grilled vegetables, and the dressing here makes this something special.