Philippa Vine is cooking with a small fish that packs a big punch in her farmhouse kitchen this month.
This month we’re gathered together to sing the praises of the anchovy and whenever I seek guidance on piscatorial matters I turn to the gospel of Paul the fishmonger.
The proprietor of ‘Paul’s Plaice’ and long-standing farmers market supplier of fish pie mix to the Vine family, Paul preaches that anchovies are a great way of adding instant “essence of fish” to a recipe and their intense piquancy can transform a hastily prepared snack into a far more satisfying meal.
He does, however, warn that if you stray from the path of buying anchovy soaked in oil and succumb to those preserved in salt you will regret it as they are just too salty.
The Café de Paris butter harks back to the 1970s when chefs used to boast how many ingredients they put into it, but it is basically garlic, anchovy and parsley. It is much more interesting and “meaty”-tasting than plain old garlic butter and is great for a variation of garlic bread, for use as a topping on grilled fish or steak and for adding a knob of it to enrich sauces just before serving.
While you may need to wait to use your home-grown tomatoes in the tomato and anchovy tart, in my impatience I have used asparagus instead as I prefer the lighter texture of this tart, which I’ve used as an alternative to quiches lately. Traditionally, anchovies have been used in a Caesar salad, but it could be argued that the Caesar salad is a heretic in the church of anchovy, as its inventor Caesar Cardini, who ran a restaurant in Tijuana in the 1920s, did not approve of adding anchovy because he used Worcestershire sauce whose aroma he thought was sufficient on its own.
Tomato and anchovy tart
For the pastry:
175g (6oz) plain flour
90g (3½ oz) butter
For the filling:
110g (4oz) butter
75g (3oz) ground almonds
75g (3oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
110g (4oz) cottage cheese
50g (2oz) strong cheddar
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small bunch of basil
2-3 large ripe tomatoes
250g cherry tomatoes or mixed yellow and red tomatoes
10 anchovy fillets
Make the pastry first. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix to a paste. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4). Roll it out and line a loose-bottomed metal flan tin. Line the inside of the pastry with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 20-25 minutes. Remove the paper and beans. For the filling: crush the garlic and grate the cheddar cheese. Soften the butter. Mix together the butter, eggs, almonds, garlic and both cheeses – can be done by hand or in a food processor. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and then spread it into the pastry case. Tear the basil leaves and make a layer over the filling. Slice the large tomatoes and lay them over the top. Halve the baby tomatoes and fill the spaces, cut side up, left by the large tomatoes. Bake the tart for 35-45 at 180C (350F, Gas mark 4), lowering the temperature towards the end of cooking if it is starting to look too brown. Halve the anchovy fillets and arrange them over the top of the tart and drizzle some of the oil from the tin or jar over the surface. Eat at room temperature.
1 large Cos lettuce
Half a medium baguette cut into squares for croutons
50g (2oz) piece of Parmesan or similar cheese grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons ready-made mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plain yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon or more of rapeseed or olive oil
50g (2oz) anchovy fillets
Wash the lettuce and dry it. Tear the outer leaves into manageable pieces and place in a bowl with the heart leaves. Place the garlic in a bowl with the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice and black pepper. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Toss the cubed bread in a little oil to get them evenly coated and then place on a tray and bake in a hot oven (230C, 450F, Gas mark 8) until crisp. Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce leaves and toss gently to coat the leaves. Divide them into four bowls with the torn anchovy fillets and the croutons.
Café de Paris butter
250g (9oz) salted butter
2 cloves of garlic
A small bunch of fresh herbs: parsley, chives, basil or tarragon
25g (1oz) anchovy fillets
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Mash the garlic to a paste and do the same with the anchovies. Chop the herbs very fine. Soften the butter (don’t throw the wrapper away). Beat all the ingredients together. You can of course put the whole lot in the food processor. Reform the butter into a cylinder using the butter paper. Wrap again in cling film – all ready to use!