I just came back from a nice break in south Italy, where I spent few days soaking up in the warm sunshine and enjoying dining al fresco, savouring many local dishes. This easy recipe I am sharing with you here is one of them 🙂
The anchovies belong to the oily fish family (sometimes also called “blue fish” because of their blueish green color), as do herrings, mackerels, and sardines, all well known for their high fat content.
As their cousins, anchovies are a fantastic source of Omega 3s, the good essential fats in charge of many processes in our body such as keeping our cardiovascular system and our brain functioning properly.
This typical Mediterranean fish antipasto is very easy to prepare and doesn’t require cooking. Already well-known in Ancient Greece, marinating is an old way to prepare food without cooking it; it is in fact the acidity of the lemon and vinegar that technically “cooks” the tender meat of the anchovies.
So appetizing, perfect as an antipasto freddo (cold starter), this delicacy requires only patience!
It literally takes 20 minutes to prepare, but we have to wait for the marinating time.
Once ready, the marinated anchovies will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, just make sure to cover them completely in good quality extra virgin olive oil.
In Italy many fishmongers are selling the anchovies just caught, super fresh, so in order to avoid any parasite contamination (in particular from the anisakis), blast chilling (called also “blast freezing”) is always required.
This process involves freezing the fish for many hours (at least 96 hours for a home freezer) at very low set temperatures before preparing it.
Here in England many fishmongers do sell fish which has been already blast chilled; always ask to make sure and if in doubt proceed with the blast freezing at home (you can find more info here)
You can clean the anchovies either before or after this process; also, many fishmongers will clean them for you, just ask!
There are different version of this recipe: different village, different marinade style. Some include chili flakes, some don’t; some mix the white vinegar with white wine, some don’t. The result is guaranteed no matter what style you choose 🙂
As much as I do prefer raw apple cider vinegar in my food, this recipe calls for white wine vinegar, and indeed swapping the vinegars will affect the marinade and the final flavour.
Try this recipe and enjoy this mouthwatering dish, a sure success at your dinner parties!
Prep Time: At least 6 hours for marinating
Total Time: 20 Minutes
- 400 grams fresh anchovies, cleaned, scaled & opened
- juice of 3 lemons
- good quality white wine vinegar
- good quality sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- lemon wedges to serve
Begin by cleaning the anchovies. If yours are already cleaned, skip this step 🙂
Remove the heads and slice each anchovy open along its belly (or use your thumb), pulling out the spine and pin bones from the top, being careful not to split the little fish.
Rinse the fillets thoroughly under cold running water, drain well and layer them in a glass container with a flat bottom, ready for the marinade.
In a little bowl, combine together the white wine vinegar, the juice of 2 lemons and a pinch of salt and mix well.
Pour the marinade over the fish, making sure the anchovies are completely submerged in it.
Cover with cling film and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours, or until the flesh turns white. The timing of the marinade depends on the size of the anchovies, the bigger they are the longer they will need to “cook” and turn white.
When the time has passed, drain the little anchovies (don’t rinse them!) and pat them dry with a kitchen towel, while discarding the marinade.
Place a single layer of anchovies in a clean glass container, skin side down, and sprinkle with few drops of extra virgin olive oil and some lemon juice, a pinch of parsley, some minced garlic and a pinch of salt & pepper.
Layer in the rest of the anchovies, sprinkling each layer with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and salt & pepper. Pour extra virgin olive oil on the fish, making sure they are completely covered.
Cover the glass container again with cling film and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.
To serve, drain well the anchovies, arrange them on a serving plate, and garnish with fresh parsley leaves and lemon wedges.