Now, here is one that’s not for the faint hearted!
Anchovies seem to be one of those divisive things in life that reveal mysteriously strong opinions in hitherto calm, collected people. I can kind of get that. A heavily salted fish, consumed hair-thin bones and all, will never be a universally enjoyed ingredient. It’s no ‘Bread’ or ‘Egg’, in that respect.
But, I feel, ‘Ingredient’ is the key word here; The anchovy is less there to be enjoyed in and of itself (though I must confess here to being a keen post-pub anchovy guzzler. It’s a grim thing, I know, but sat there in the jar, as I forlornly peruse the fridge, I am frequently unable to resist them) but to season other parts of a meal, and bring out the hidden flavours from within something else. They do this job perfectly, for example, with roast lamb, but also with more versatile vehicles like Salsa Verde, which seems to go with virtually anything, perhaps purely by dint of being so completely delicious.
In the case of this recipe, which I enjoyed as a quick lunch on a day when I was short of time, it straddles the roles of Main Event and Complementary Element (second perhaps to the Bread, depending on how good a loaf you’re using, and garlic, which is also present in rather mouthwatering force). As I said above, this isn’t one for half measures: this is a mixture of incredibly strong flavours, bashed together, then flashed under the grill. For me, it was an unapologetic treat, but I can imagine it would be something close to the worst nightmare of others.
I took a tin of anchovy fillets, gave them a quick rinse, and ground them to a paste in a pestle and mortar. To this, I added a clove of garlic, ground that into the paste, and then a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and half a teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
I spread the lot on slices of bread which I’d charred on the opposite side in a griddle pan (this isn’t the faff it sounds: it was literally a couple of minutes’ labour, and well worth it) and put those under the grill for two or three minutes. I scattered a few capers on top and then tucked in.
This lunch will win no beauty contests. It’s not one for the cover of your recipe book. It is however, if you’re as enchanted by strong, pungent flavours as I am, as good a lunch as one could hope for.
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