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Information about Anchovies plus Anchovy recipes collection


Ingredient of the Month

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March 2002

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What are Anchovies?

Anchovies are tiny saltwater fish, about 7.5cm/3inches long and are related to the Herring belonging to the family Clupeidae. They can  be cooked fresh but are not always easy to get hold of and are usually sold packed in salt,  tinned in oil, as a paste  in jars or tubes, or as a sauce. They are also popularly used as a stuffing for olives.

Origin of Anchovies

The true anchovy  is  to be found in  the Mediterranean and southern European coastlines and are regularly caught off the coasts of Sicily, Italy, France and Spain.  The range of the species also extends along the Atlantic coast of Europe to the south of Norway and in winter , it's common off Devon and Cornwall in the UK. Having said that, there are many other fish known as "anchovy" to be found the world over.

Preparing Fresh Anchovies

To prepare fresh anchovies, rub the scales off with your fingers or a cloth. Use a sharp knife cut off the heads then make an incision along the stomach and remove the insides and back-bone.   Rinse inside and out under cold running water and dry on kitchen paper. They can then be marinated in lemon juice or white wine vinegar, and olive oil. They are excellent with the addition of garlic and fresh parsley. Once marinated and flavoured, they can be grilled, fried, baked, barbecued

Storing Anchovies

Tinned anchovies can be stored at room temperature for at least a year unopened. Once opened, they can be refrigerated for at least 2 months so long as they are covered with oil and sealed airtight. To alleviate saltiness in tinned anchovies, soak them in cool water for about 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Use fresh anchovies as soon as you buy them. As with all fresh fish, keep in a cool place such as a refrigerator. Use within 24 hours unless marinating them.


Salted anchovies begin to lose quality as soon as the tin is opened, so it is better to buy only as many anchovies as you need from a large tin that's been freshly opened in the store. If you don't use them all within a few days, wash the salt off, place in a jar of olive oil, seal with a lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days to get the best out of them.


Cooking with Anchovies

The Anchovy flavour goes well with fish, vegetables and meats. Use tinned anchovy fillets as a garnish for pizzas,  canapés, vegetable dishes,  butters and salad dressings (they are an integral ingredient in a Salad Nicoise). Anchovy Paste can be used in much the same way but remember, it's highly concentrated so don't use too much. Anchovy Essence can be used to add extra flavour to soups, stews and sauces in a similar way to Worcestershire Sauce (which actually contains anchovy  in its manufacture), but once again, use sparingly. If you are using Salted Anchovies just for flavour, rinse off the salt, split them open to remove the central bone, and they are ready to use. However, if you want to eat them in salads and appetizers, wash off the salt, then soak in cold water, changing the water several times, until softened - this will take between 30 -60 minutes.

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