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Engraulis enchrasicolus (Scientific Name); Anchois (French); Sardellen (German); Acciuga salata, Acciughe, Alici (Italian); Anchoas (Spanish); Anchova (Portuguese)

[AN-choh-vee; an-CHOH-vee] Though there are many species of small, silvery fish that are known in their country of origin as “anchovies,” the true anchovy comes only from the Mediterranean and southern European coastlines. These tiny fish are generally filleted, salt-cured and canned in oil (sold flat and rolled). Canned anchovies can be stored at room temperature for at least a year. Once opened, they can be refrigerated for at least 2 months if covered with oil and sealed airtight. To alleviate saltiness in anchovies, soak them in cool water for about 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Because they’re so salty, anchovies are used sparingly to flavor or garnish sauces and other preparations.- from The New Food Lover’s Companion

I first want to put your mind at ease, and reassure you that by the end of this post you will not be putting anchovies in your ice cream, or eating an anchovy sandwich, unless you are already the wiser to the fishy little bugger that is the not-so-secret ingredient in my tomato sauce. Then by all means go for it! I think anchovies, like Brussels sprouts, get “the squish face” from people because from a very young age they are told they are yucky. It’s the bud of jokes in countless commercials, television shows, and in movies. Most times the haters have not even tried them, or had them prepared in a less than appetizing way. I grew up eating B-sprouts. I grew up with frozen ones mind you, and still loved them. I didn’t have a fresh one until I was about 19. Then I was the girl buying the whole crazy stalk of them, just to admire at home before I lopped them off their life stem. So this is more of a group date. No pressure.

I did not grow up eating anchovies, but have grown to appreciate their unique contribution. Although I can eat about one whole white anchovy (they are popping up on tapas plates everywhere) with a level of enjoyment that may be neither enjoyment nor repulsion before I realize I really don’t like whole anchovies this way, and I should stick to savoring them as an ingredient, not the main attraction. It’s akin to a band you really like opening for a band you really like. You start to realize the opening band is opening for a reason.

Now that you are past the creepy 'chovy stare, let's get to some recipes.

First made in 1828, Patum Peperium is a secret recipe with anchovies, butter, herbs and rare spices.

Patum Peperium– (Gentleman’s Relish)
3 anchovies, drained & coarsely chopped
Generous dash of hot-pepper sauce
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs, freshly grated
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 dash ground cinnamon
1 dash freshly ground nutmeg
1 dash ground mace
1 dash ground ginger
1 good twist ground black pepper

Mix the anchovies and butter with a fork to form a paste. Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate to allow flavors to meld. Serve in small dish beside each plate. Serve with toast or Melba.

*If you still have no plans on inviting more anchovies into your life, there is a salmon alternative to Gentleman’s Relish- Poacher’s Relish, made with smoked salmon fillets and lemon zest.

Homemade Gentleman’s Relish

I prefer this one with lemon and capers.

  • 1 tin of anchovies (drained)
  • 4 tbsp capers
  • 150g of butter
  • A few twists of black pepper
  • A good pinch of cayenne pepper
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1tsp. Lemon Juice

Melt the butter in a pan and add the spices and stir well, do not allow the butter to boil!

Place the spiced butter, anchovies, capers and lemon juice in a blender and whiz until all the ingredients are combined.

Pour the mixture into a ramekin dish and place in the fridge to set. Once set, use a knife to cut around the seal around the top, the relish should then drop out in a nice solid block.

Picture and recipe from Hunter, Gather, Cook- Adventures in Wild Food

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Gentleman’s Relish can be used almost anywhere anchovies or Worcestershire sauce is used. I like it in deviled eggs, egg salad, tomato sauces, bruschetta, and in pasta dishes.

*I am not a sushi fan, but I like to live vicariously through those who are.

Gentleman’s Sushi

250-300g very fresh pollack fillet from a large fish
A couple of teaspoons of English mustard
A couple of teaspoons of Gentleman’s Relish
Here are some fermented friends.
Liquamen Ingredients:

1 cn (2oz) anchovies packed in
Olive oil
1 1/2 c Water
1 ts Oregano
1 oz Grape juice
1/2 ts Salt.

Liquamen Instructions:

1) Boil the anchovies, water, oregano, and salt over high heat for 10 minutes, until the liquid is reduced about one third.
2) Strain the liquamen through a tea strainer once or twice, then add the grape juice.
Pour into a jar.
It will keep for weeks if refrigerated.

Seaweed relish: This is a recipe based on that of Gentleman’s relish, the Victorian savory spread that makes an equivalent spread not from anchovies but from seaweed, the main ingredients being liver, kelp and bladder wrack. In many ways it’s similar to the Japanese seaweed paste, momoya, and can be used in any recipe calling for this ingredient. Do not skimp on the kelp as it’s the glutamate in this that provides the umami taste (the full ‘mouth feel’) that is provided by the anchovies in the original version.
The recipe for Gentleman’s Relish has remained a secret since it was first invented by John Osborn in 1828 and no doubt some, whose taste buds recoil at this intensely salty blend of anchovies, butter, herbs and spices, are happy for it to remain secret. But as ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’, the book “Gentleman’s Relish” is packed with a range of exotic, strange and downright unexpected English culinary oddities. From Piccalilli and Marmite through Bombay duck, Brown Windsor Soup to Sloe Gin and samphire, the book has histories, recipes and anecdotes on a range of eccentric eats that delight the taste buds of the English. This is an essential reference for anyone who relishes sampling the exotic and the unexpected. Hardback, 10 x 10cm, 144 pages.