Hooked on anchovies!

Hooked on anchovies!

Anchovies! I could eat them without stopping! I just love their pungent and unique taste and aroma.

They were once considered a peasant dish, due to their low commercial value, and were mainly used as an essential element in the culinary traditions of some areas of Italy. Yet they possess some highly beneficial properties, being a rich source of iron, magnesium and calcium, to name but a few.

The anchovy is a blue-backed, small, salt-water fish, that travels in shoals close to the surface of the water, causing blue reflections due to a silver-coloured longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin.

Blue is one of the primary colours of the summer: it is the colour of the sky, of the Mediterranean.. and of its flashing anchovy shoals.

There is a legend that says that once, long ago, anchovies were nagging, bright little groups of stars, so irritating that even the moon lost patience with them! Thus God punished them, throwing them to the depths of the sea, where they kept their shiny colour but were silenced forever, and became the prey of man.

A long-established way to process and preserve anchovies is to gut and salt them in brine, allow them to cure, then pack them in oil or salt. Processed since Roman times, anchovies were the basis of a fermented fish sauce called garum. The ancient Romans used this amber-coloured liquid as a dressing for many of their foods.

In Italy, the fishing village of Cetara on the Amalfi coast – where the sky is bluer than anywhere else – is still today famous for its “colatura di alici”, the fishy sauce called garum by the Romans. Each summer, following a recipe first recorded by Medieval monks, anchovies are layered with salt and placed under weights in wooden barrels; as the fish reacts with the salt, an intense anchovy-brine is produced, which is collected, then developed using natural sunlight. Finally, this liquid is passed again through the casks of anchovies, aged by now for 4 or 5 months, to absorb the greatest possible intensity of flavour from the fish residue. The result is the precious amber-gold ‘colatura’: as rich in history as it is in flavour!

There are so many ways to eat anchovies…
Have a look at the recipes section on this page. How about anchovy muffins? Full of flavour and soooo healthy!

 

 

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